There were tears and laughter when crew members of MISC’s tankers were reunited with their family members yesterday. (Top) Imran Hamid embracing his mother, Rosnah Abu Bakar, outside her home in Rawang. (Below) Salwadi Mamat greeting his father, Mamat Osman, at the Ismail Petra Airport in Pengkalan Chepa. — Pictures by Mohd Radzi Bujang and Fathil Asri
KUALA LUMPUR: A friendly wave is normally reciprocated in kind, but when two crewmen of Bunga Melati Dua waved at what they thought was a harmless fishing trawler, they were greeted with a hail of bullets instead.
"The crew members waved at the trawler and were shocked when bullets started flying in their direction. They quickly made their way to the accommodation room and informed the duty officer," he said at a press conference in Wisma Dayabumi.
"As rehearsed in drills, the crew immediately began gathering on the bridge and the accommodation doors were also secured. Many of the younger, inexperienced crew members were trembling with fear."
Despite the captain's best efforts at defensive manoeuvring, the pirates' three trawlers comfortably matched Bunga Melati Dua knot for knot and eventually pulled up alongside it.
"They gestured angrily at us through the glass and used the rifle butts of their AK-47s to emphasise their point. As the glass was not bulletproof, we allowed them onto the bridge," Nuzaihan said.
"Their first command was to order us to bring the tanker to a complete stop. Although we did that, the ship's momentum meant we were still moving, so they fired two shots."
Tragically, one of the shots hit a Filipino crewman in the head.
The pirates directed several crew members to give their injured colleague medical attention but he died 90 minutes later. His body was taken to the tanker's cooler room.
Nuzaihan said it was evident that the pirates did not mean to hurt anyone as they asked the crew to save the man.
Asked if he ever gave up hope during his days in captivity, he said: "I prayed daily and accepted death as fate. But throughout the whole ordeal, I never gave up."
On board Bunga Melati Lima, which was hijacked on Aug 29, Captain Maheswaran Muniandy was gripped by fear every time a gun was pointed at his head.
This was a tactic to force him to relay the pirates' demands to the negotiating team.
"They wanted to scare me into calling the office and relaying their threats. For instance, at one time they said they were going to beach the vessel as they wanted a quick decision on the ransom."
Maheswaran said as days passed, the crew came to the conclusion that the pirates were not going to kill anyone. Overall, the crew was treated well.
"Their treatment was not consistent, though. But there was no physical contact because we surrendered. We had to. They were armed with AK-47s and pistols.
"We were not trained to handle arms but we were prepared for a situation like this. It also helped that we had a drill before entering the hostile waters," he said.
The first group of six pirates who boarded the vessel instructed him via sign language to head towards Somalia.
Bosun Yusof Hamid said he was prepared for any eventuality.
"We did everything we were supposed to do. We raised the alarm but the younger crew members were visibly shaken. The pirates acceded to the crew's request to be allowed to pray and break fast.
"We ate sparingly and rationed our supplies as we did not know how long we would be in captivity."