Jan 18, 2013 02:52 pm
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Surasena had recorded on empty cigarette packets all daily happenings while he has been a prisoner of Somalian pirates

When we were imprisoned in the jungle which was full of serpents we used to prepare ‘rotties’ which was mixed with muddy water

Sarathchandra Surasena, a resident of Kaluthara Dodangoda had been a prisoner of Somalian pirates for two years has been able to get home on last Sunday. He had been an electrician. He had kept a record of his experiences on used empty cigarette packets of Somalian pirates and the following lines are the manner as to how he expressed his experience.

“I have worked in a ship for about 5 years. I worked in a Dubai ship. We were transporting  coal in 2010 towards India from South Africa. There were 19 in our team. We were planning to reach within a week. Yet we were caught by the Somalian pirates on our fourth day.

They came in huge fishing boats. They parked their boats near our ship. From there, they came in express boats and jumped into the ship with the aid of ladders. They were fully armed. They surrendered us and we had no time to do anything. There were about forty in their team. First of all, they destroyed the communication equipment we had in our possession. Thus, we couldn’t communicate with anyone. They collected all the mobile phones we had. Then they ordered us to take our ship to port “Rasayath”. We were about 900 miles away from it. We were in their custody so we had no other choice.
We saw two natural harbours when we were driving our ship on their guidance. There were ships which were caught by the pirates. After a day, they gave us our phones. They told us to call our families and the owner of the ship asking for Rs 10 million. I too called my family at that time. When we spoke to the Lebanese who owned the ship, he told us that he will save us and then they grabbed our phones from us.
They anchored the ship and filled it with bags of sugar and flour. We understood that we will have to stay for a long period of time. They told us that they are seeking other ships and if they find more, they told us that they will release us. Even though they attempted on capturing another ship, they failed. The sea was rough and some of them fell to the sea when they tried jumping from the boats into the ship. On another day, an Indian Navy airplane made sirens.

The pirates pretended saying that they have faced some technical difficulties. They asked whether there are any Indians and when they said no, they ordered us to leave the territory. They warned us that they will blast us if don’t agree. For about 6 months we were just moving here and there. No one came to survive us. Fuel was over in June 2011. It stopped moving on the 14th of June in the middle of the sea. It was all dark. Then they set fire to the ship. We thought that they would kill us too. But they didn’t. They gave us water and they were stored in diesel barrels. They left about two three sacks of rice. It was difficult to cook because the pots and those pans too were smashed. We ate rice with sugar on that night.

On the next day, I was asked to get off the ship with an engineer and the captain. We were taken towards the island. We were sacred because only three of us were selected from the crowd. They tied our hands and tortured us. Then they untied us. It was a place full off snakes. We were kept as prisoners for three months.  We slept on the bushes. Serpents were creeping on our bodies. They fed us greens and rarely with  potatoes. We were given rotty and we were given flour to make our own rotty. We mixed the flour with muddy water. We used firewood and baked rotty. There were guards with arms. They tied our legs into a tree thinking that we will try to escape.

They kept us until they heard that ransom will be paid. In between we heard that the rest of the crowd was released by the owner. Yet, we have been forgotten since we were in the jungle. They had to pay $10,000 for each of us as travelling expense. My son in England agreed to pay for me.
Captain and the Engineer who was a Syrian have been paid by their families. We travelled across a desert and it was about 600 miles to Mogadishu. From there, we came to Nairobi and to Abu Dhabi. I came to Sri Lanka on Sunday. Later we got to know that Sri Lankan embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Foreign Service in Nairobi with the UN has taken a lot of trouble to save our lives.
It was such a terrific experience. I reported the entire story everything on empty cigarette packets which were thrown away by the pirates.”

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