Surveillance to keep country safe will go on


30-April-2009

They were speaking after nine suspected Somali pirates caught during a joint military operation by the Seychelles Coast Guard and European and Indian forces were placed in police custody.

“The protection of our country and its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) remains a priority to me. I will never let our country or economic zone be threatened and that’s why, when some of our citizens were held hostage by pirates, I immediately made an appeal to friendly countries, for example the European Union, France and other partners, to see how we can collaborate to carry out the surveillance,” said Mr Michel.

He said even with our limited capacity we have done well and we will continue taking whatever action is necessary.
He noted that as soon as a cruise ship was attacked within our EEZ, the authorities immediately alerted our partners, who worked in collaboration with our forces.

Mr Michel recalled that our aircraft and the French Navy’s Falcon jet were involved in tracking down the suspected pirates, and the Spanish and French forces – part of the joint European Union naval operation Atalanta – worked together with the Indian naval ship INS Nirdeshak.

“In the end the suspects have been arrested and will be taken to court,” he said, adding that such a partnership is important because our EEZ is extensive.

He said talks with partners like India, France and the EU are continuing to consolidate the agreements we have with them. Last week he received a letter directly from French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who assured him of the country’s continued support.

“Today I’ve also met the Indian high commissioner, who assured me of his country’s continued support in the surveillance of our waters as well as the training of our forces to enhance our capacity to protect our territory,” said Mr Michel.

He said the Coast Guard vessel Topaz, which can achieve high speeds and give “hot pursuit”, is expected back in the country soon and will boost our surveillance capabilities and potential to ward off pirates.

He thanked the different forces involved in the successful operation to arrest the suspected pirates and commended the Seychellois soldiers on the Andromache, as well as those who are keeping guard over our outer islands.

Mr Michel said the families and victims of Seychellois held hostage by pirates are in his thoughts and prayers, and he assured them negotiations are continuing and progress being made.

On the question of the pirates now being held here, he said he will let justice take its course and let the police do their work, but added that no effort will be spared to ensure the release of the Seychellois held hostage in Somalia.

President Michel said the success of the operation is proof we have good cooperation with our international partners, who are helping us in our hour of need.

“Now we are reinforcing this collaboration to see how we can further consolidate the surveillance and combat the piracy scourge, which is a form of terrorism,” he said.

Chief of Defence Forces Brigadier Leopold Payet also commended the men in uniform involved in the operation to arrest the suspects and said Seychelles People’s Defence Forces (SPDF) personnel on the outer islands will stay there “until further notice”.

Assuring everyone of the force’s vigilance to ensure we are safe, Brig Payet said the Andromache will, for the time being, remain in Victoria undergoing maintenance but he said the Topaz will be on her way to Seychelles soon.

He said during the surveillance and arrest operation, the SPDF – which is coordinating activities in our waters – has adjusted its strategy several times and, despite constraints, has remained on maximum alert.

“I want to reassure the people of Seychelles that the SPDF is always ready to protect this country and its people. We committed ourselves to defend our country before anything else. We do not fear, our commitment is very strong,” he said.

Police Commissioner Ernest Quatre said the police have certain exhibits they are examining using scientific methods, and investigations are going on to establish any involvement of the suspects in piracy.

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