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Unveiling the “real” pirates

Unveiling the “real” pirates
by Isheeta Sumra

Doesn’t sound right, does it? Why then call a Somali fisherman one, when it was the western powers that exploited the socially, politically and economically unstable Somalia and turned the small-time Somali fisherman into a pirate?

Divided by clan-based conflict, Somalia has lacked a central government since 1991. It is a failed state in the midst of a social meltdown that has left hundreds of thousands dead and 3 million people desperately in need of aid. Exploiting this lawless and poverty-stricken state, developed nations like Japan, Spain, United States have been using Somalia’s waters to service their own economic greed.

As quoted by Time, in a recent UN report, Somali waters have become an international ‘free for all’ in the absence of an effective coastguard, with fishing fleets from around the world illegally plundering an estimated $300 million worth of seafood from Somalia's coastline each year. "The first pirate gangs emerged in the '90s to protect against foreign trawlers" according to Peter Lehr from the University of St. Andrews, an acknowledged pirate expert. As Ali, a Somali pirate, recently told the New York Times by satellite phone: “We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas." That Somali pirates consider themselves protectors of their motherland is also evident from the names of prominent pirate groups, which include ‘National Volunteer Coast Guard’ and ‘Somali Marines’.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy for Somalia, confirmed in 2008 that European and Asian nations have also been using Somali waters as a dumping ground for various kinds of toxic waste, including uranium radioactive waste. This practice has killed the livelihood of millions of Somali fishermen and caused medical ailments as diverse as mouth and abdominal bleeding, skin infections and respiratory illness.

With 73% of Somalia’s population living on a income of below USD$2 a day, would you blame a Somali fisherman for turning to a USD$30 million industry? “You can earn serious money being a pirate – which you cannot as either a fisherman or a militia member,” said Lehr. Piracy offers the young fisherman a chance to realize his dream of a stable future “Now I have two lorries, a luxury car and have started my own business in my town”, a 25 year old Somali pirate told BBC in April this year.

However, I do acknowledge that even though piracy originated as a method of self defence, it is now a major problem and if not tackled correctly we could witness a maritime 9/11. “They may well have started as the defenders of their waters, but nowadays, you are talking about highly organized maritime crime,” added Lehr.

Ali adds that the piracy issue could be controlled if the root of their problem was addressed. "If the world stops stealing our property and harming us, we have a solution," he said. "We will stop the piracy and go back to our normal jobs."

We need to assess the situation for what it is and address the root cause of the piracy problem. It is a product of imperial opportunists who have neglected Somalia’s basic rights. I believe that it would not be audacious to claim that it is these western powers who are the real pirates, the ruthless criminals raping Somali waters. Do we fail to see this just because, unlike traditional pirates, they lack the eye patch, the peg leg and the sword? Are we so deceived by the smooth-talking western media that we are unable to identify the ‘real’ pirates?


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Italian origin waste dumpers

My informed guess is that much of the waste being dumped off the coast of Somalia and other west African states would originate in Europe and be shipped out of Naples. Any information/links as to the corporate names involved would be welcome as would any Australian corporate or personnel links.

Good article, Isheeta Sumra.

short memories

Sharp, astute little thread starter from Isheeta Sumra. As it happens, Somaliland has been given coverage of late on TV on both ABC and SBS.

The story about offshore fishing fleets adds yet another chapter to the story of a now notorious industry the world over.

Somaliland rang a bell concerning a current affairs show from a few years ago that described the exploitation by an offshore fleet (in this case Spanish) off the coast of maybe Senegal or Mauritania, or maybe one of the other even smaller, poorer countries of West Africa. The government had sold out the livelihood of local fishermen for a licensing fee, but, in contrast to local fishing, which used almost all fish caught, without needing to deplete and eventually collapse the fishery, the offshore fleet was only interested in a couple of species and dumped a huge percentage of fish of no European value, that would have been used gratefully by locals.

Little wonder the Somali fishermen eventually reacted as they did. And for this they were given the added indignity of a false misnomer dreamed up by industry spin doctors, drawn out of the worst of neoliberal "trade" ideology/mythology; "pirates".

Likewise the dumping issue.

It didn't immediately come to mind but yet again, you are left with the response, " I might've guessed !".

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