The Jakarta Post
The 10 Indonesian sailors released by the Abu Sayyaf terror group on Sunday have been reunited with their families.
Representing the Indonesian government, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi officially handed over the 10 crewmen to their families in a ceremony on Monday. The sailors were held hostage by Abu Sayyaf militants in southern Philippines for 36 days.
“Their release was a long process; the situation in the field was very dynamic and really complicated,” said Retno during the ceremony at Gedung Pancasila in the Foreign Affairs Ministry complex in Jakarta.
The minister said the Brahma 12 tugboat crew members had undergone a health check at the Gatot Subroto Army Central Hospital (RSPAD) in Central Jakarta, and were all confirmed fit and healthy.
Retno said the government had prioritized the safety of the crewmen in its rescue efforts, adding that all forms of communication had been utilized from the beginning of the hostage negotiation process, as one form of communication would not have been sufficient for such a large scale operation.
"One brick is not enough to build a home", the minister said.
The Indonesian government launched its rescue effort on March 28, shortly after it had received information regarding the hostages.
On April 1, Retno visited the Philippines to meet with President Benigno Aquino III. During the visit, Retno took the opportunity to open communication networks with various parties.
"[The successful rescue effort] was achieved through total diplomacy led by the government with the involvement of all members of society," said Retno.
Julian Phillip, the deck officer aboard the Brahma 12 tugboat, said the vessel had been hijacked on March 25 at 3:20 p.m. local time.
"We were approached by two speedboats. There were eight people wearing official Philippine police uniform on the boats," Julian said.
He further said initially, the Brahma 12 crew members thought they were local policemen. They jumped into the tugboat fully armed and straightaway took hostage the crew members, he continued.
All of the hijackers had firearms such as the M14 and or M16 double body and had draped their bodies with reload bullets, Julian said adding that the hijackers had then proceeded to tie up all people on board. Several crewmen were tied with ropes while the others were held in handcuffs.
Julian went on to say that the extremist group members taken good care of them during captivity so as to ensure they stayed alive. However, the extremists repeatedly threatened them by pointing the tip of a knife, as if they were ready to slash their necks.
“That’s what they looked like,” Julian told reporters, recalling the intense conditions he and his fellow crew members had faced during their captivity.
Youla Lasut, wife of crewman Alfian Elvis Refi, represented the families of the hostages at the handover ceremony.
Youla appeared emotional and could barely hold back tears during her speech.
"First, I want to thank and express my deepest heartfelt gratitude to Jesus Christ. Because of his love and grace, my husband can now reunite with our family. There are no words to explain [how I feel]", Youla said as she broke into tears, explaining the faith which she held as a source of strength during the ordeal.
Youla also thanked the government, shipping company PT Patria Maritime Line and the North Sulawesi administration, especially the provincial governor, Olly Dondokambey, who took time to visit her and her family to provide updates on the hostage situation.
Tugboat operator PT Patria Maritime Line commissioner Loudy Irwanto Ellias was present at the ceremony. He conveyed his appreciation for the diplomacy efforts and moral support of the government, as well as all parties whom had contributed to the success of the rescue.
"The company held the same vision as all authorities involved in this operation. This helped us to become a solid team, we walked in unity during the process,” Loudy said.
The 10 Indonesian seamen arrived at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday.
The government is continuing in its effort to rescue four other Indonesians, taken hostage in a different incident. The four Indonesians remain in the hands of the same terror group.
The government will not provide any ransom payment for the release of the hostages, Retno asserted. (ebf)
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