TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Piracy is a crime that must not be tolerated. And rescuing the crew of the Anand 12 held hostage by Abu Sayyaf militants is now a priority of the government. But this must be done without negotiating with the kidnappers. Once we give in to their demands, they will carry out more terror acts. As soon as the authorities obtain the green light from the Philippine government, security officials should promptly carry out their rescue operation.
Early this week, Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic extremist group in the Philippines, hijacked Indonesian-flagged tugboat Brahma 12 and its barge, the Anand 12, that were carrying 7,000 tons of coal from the Puting river in South Kalimantan to Batangas in the southern Philippines. The pirates later released the Brahma 12, but detained the Anand 12 along with 10 sailors all Indonesians and the cargo.
This is not the first time Indonesian vessels have been hijacked. In June 2004, 10 pirates claiming to be part of the Aceh Independence Movement (GAM) intercepted the Pertamina tanker MV Pematang and its 36 crew members over the Malacca Strait. The pirates demanded a Rp2 billion ransom. The Indonesian military launched a rescue operation on the Karel Satsuit Tubun frigate, killing three pirates.
In 2011, the Sinar Kudus, a cargo ship belonging to Samudra shipping company and carrying 8,300 tons of ferronickel worth Rp1.4 trillion, was forced to anchor off the Somalian coast, infamous for its pirates. They had held the ship in international waters for days and were initially demanding US$1 million. The ransom rose to US$3 million before the hijackers lowered the sum again to the original figure.
The Indonesian military at the time had prepared a rescue operation but delayed it after the ship owner decided to pay the ransom a regrettable decision. After the money was paid and the hostages safe, the army, with permission from the Somali government, raided the ship. Four pirates were shot dead while the rest escaped.
The consent of the local government is necessary before foreign troops can enter a given country even for humanitarian missions, as international law stipulates. With such a permission, our elite special forces stormed the DC-9 Garuda plane that had been hijacked and forced to land at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand.
Up to last weekend, the Philippine government withheld its permission and we must respect its position. After all, it is not only responsible for Indonesian hostages but also for other captives whom Abu Sayyaf has held for months.
But diplomatic strings must be pulled to the maximum to expedite the permission. A joint operation between the two countries' militaries is another option. Whatever the choice, the hostages' release should not be secured by negotiating with the pirates.
In dealing with terrorists, Indonesia must be clear in its principles that the hostages' life is of utmost importance and there is no room for compromise. This is not only to demonstrate our strength but to deter more terror acts from happening in our territory. (*)
Read the full story in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine