The Foreign Ministry referring to the news item headlined “FM hangs on to hostages’ wages” (March 21, 2010) has sent us a letter, explaining efforts taken by the ministry to secure the release of the Lankan crew members of Saudi ship al-Nisr which was hijacked by Somali pirates.
The ministry said:
“The article indicated that the money that was handed over at the Consulate General in Jeddah was tied up in a bureaucratic red tape causing much inconvenience to the next of kin.
“The Sri Lankan Consul General in Jeddah later met the General Manager of the International Bunkering Company on March 4 at his office and sought his assistance and cooperation in the early return of the Sri Lankan crew and to also collect salaries due to them.
“The General Manager of the bunkering company called at the Consulate General on 15th March 2010 and handed over a cheque of $21,920 being salary dues of the Sri Lankan crew.
“As the local banking regulations did not allow accepting cheques in US dollars the bunkering was asked to draw a cheque in Saudi Riyals. The company later handed over the cheque in Saudi Riyals on March 17, 2010.
“On 30th March 2010 the bank drafts were received by the Consular Affairs Division and the next of kin were informed accordingly to collect the drafts.
“Based on the above facts, it would therefore be obvious that there was no delay on the part of the Consulate General in Jeddah or the Consular Affairs Division in Colombo.”
Our reporter says:
A Foreign Ministry official in Colombo told the Sunday Times on March 26 that the salary cheque was due to arrive in a diplomatic pouch and that it could take a week or 10 days.
The local agent for the 13 sailors, Captain S.H.R. Kumar, confirmed that the company had delivered the draft to the Lankan mission in Jeddah on March 15 and that the Foreign Ministry along with the Sri Lankan Mission in Saudi Arabia were dragging their feet on the issue.
The Sunday Times is happy to note that the money was paid in less than two days after the news item was published, though a ministry official in Colombo said it would take another 10 days.