Calls for global action to end piracy in Somalia | Connect Asia

Calls for global action to end piracy in Somalia

Calls for global action to end piracy in Somalia

Updated 28 February 2012, 15:35 AEDT

The international community is calling for global action to combat the problem of piracy in Somalia.

At a global maritime meeting in India, top defence officials have called for close co-operation between countries to address the causes of the growing problem.

Earlier this month, Sri Lanka and India pledged to work with the Maldives to find a strategy to stop piracy spreading.

And now Britain has announced it will raise the issue for debate at an international conference to be held in February.

Presenter: Murali Krishnan

Speaker: Ebyan Mohamed Salah, Somalia's ambassador to India; Duncan Gaswaga, Judge of the Supreme Court of Seychelles; Ranjeet Sangle, Indian lawyer; Francis Kadima, human rights advocate based in Kenya; Upendra Acharya, humanitarian law expert

KRISHNAN: The pirates of Somalia are only getting bolder and brazen and for the international community the issue of maritime security has become a matter of concern.

Operating primarily from the Gulf of Aden, the Gulf of Guinea, the Malacca Straits and the Indian Ocean, delegates at a global conference on 'Global Maritime Security & Anti-Piracy', the first to be held in India, have called for close co-operation between like-minded nations to eliminate such threats from their root.

In the Seychelles Islands, nearly 1,000 miles east of Kenya, which have now become a key forward operating base, pirate gangs spread their reach across the Indian Ocean.

Duncan Gaswaga, who is in charge of the criminal division explains the road ahead for anti-piracy operations.

GASWAGA: We have tried to fight it to some extent but I can see that we have not won the fight. And I think it will continue for some time, probably after a number of years when we can overcome the scourge and when we find a U-turn.

KRISHNAN: India, too, has a rich maritime past contributing nearly 1.5 per cent in international trade and piracy has been a concern for the government.

Ranjeet Sangle, an Indian lawyer explains.

SANGLE: As of today India has arrested 120 Somalian pirates which is considered to be the world largest pirates prosecution. This problem is very severe and we are making sure these prosecutions reach its logical end.

KRISHNAN: The problem has worsened sharply in recent years. To date there have been 389 attacks worldwide and 39 hijackings of the commercial vessels. Currently 11 vessels are still held by pirates along with 194 hostages, according to the International Maritime Bureau.

Under the UN clause according to the law of the sea convention, it is clear that piracy is a crime which has universal jurisdiction. What is missing sometimes is the will of governments to incur costs and the risk of bringing them over and try them.

Francis Kadima, a lawyer from Kenya has been defending pirates.

KADIMA: The difficulty is that arresting nations usually have their own standards. These are standards of investigations, methods of collecting evidence and methods of arraigning in court. And when these cases come to court, they have to face the domestic standards.. so there is a difference there which could bring a legal problem.

KRISHNAN: Somalia has spent over 20 years in a state of civil war, and shifting alliances, international interventions and a steady supply of unemployed young men. Instability in most of the country has resulted in a spurt in such incidents.

Ransoms paid last year climbed to $238 million, an average of $5.4 million per ship, compared with $150,000 in 2005. Many of the pirates were former clan fighters who discovered a far more lucrative form of armed capitalism.

But Ebyan Mohamed Salah, Somalia's ambassador to India holds out hope. She says her government had prepared a master plan to disarm the 'sea gangs'

SALAH: You must know now that piracy is a global problem and not a Somali problem. And the Somali government is helping the international community, it is collaborating and cooperating to tackle down piracy. So we are working together. Because without the consent of the Somali government, especially the UN and other forces will not be able to come to Somali waters.. so we are part of it and inshallah we will tackle down piracy.

KRISHNAN: But there are some who believe that guns will not address the root causes of Somali piracy.

Upendra Acharya, an expert on humanitarian law says there has been no serious engagement with the political and developmental problems that allow those threats to take root.

ACHARYA: This is a nation building problem more than a piracy problem. Until and unless we build the country of Somalia, piracy cannot be resolved. If we empower the Somalis, the poor ones... have a stable government that comes from economic and political stability... that will take the piracy down.

KRISHNAN: Eradicating Somali piracy is as hard as it is desirable.


Contact the studio

Got something to say about what you're hearing on the radio right now?

Send your texts to +61 427 72 72 72

Add the hashtag #raonair to add your tweets to the conversation.

Email us your thoughts on an issue. Messages may be used on air.