President James Michel, the Commander-in-Chief, has decorated 17 officers of the Topaz with the medal of the Order of Honor of the Seychelles People’s Defense Forces for the heroic action they undertook to rescue the 6 Seychellois fishermen and 21 Iranians from the hands of 9 Somali pirates on March 29, 2010. President Michel also presented Certificates of Merit to the officers of the Tazar unit and the Seychelles Coast Guard Command Centre for their support effort during the operation.
“We owe the crew of the Topaz a debt of gratitude. Their heroic action at sea saved the lives of our compatriots. Our six Seychellois brothers are today with their families and in their country, Seychelles. We cannot compare ourselves with the great maritime powers, but the professionalism, tenacity, and bravery of our sailors are comparable to theirs. Our sailors aboard the Topaz have made us proud, following their successful operation against pirates,” said President Michel during the military decoration ceremony at the State House.
President James Michel said the officers have shown on one more occasion the raison d’être of the Seychelles Defense Forces whose existence has been questioned from time to time.
“Once again, the world learned that small Seychelles has accomplished a giant task. Your bravery, professionalism, courage, your sense of commitment towards your homeland, were exemplary. You saved the lives of our brothers, as well as those of foreign hostages. And you have administered the penalty on the Somali pirates! We will never allow incidents that put the lives of our citizens in danger. Our message is clear – we will not allow the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. This operation is a warning to all bandits in the region – from wherever they may come – that Seychelles will not tolerate them and we are going to take serious actions against them.”
President Michel also thanked the crew of the EUNAVFOR plane, which helped locate the pirate vessel, as well as the government of India, which had donated the patrol ship Topaz to the Seychelles.
“We have won a battle, we still have to win the war! We still have a long way to go before the decisive victory. The final victory will remain elusive for as long as the piracy scourge in the Indian Ocean is not eradicated completely. There is the necessity, as the international community has recognized, to tackle the root of the problem. We cannot do much about this on our own. We do not have the means, the resources, to bring stability to Somalia. But where it is possible, we will give our support to and show our solidarity with the international community. What we have now is a clear message – we will defend our sovereignty and our citizens at all cost.”
President Michel noted that Seychelles would need further assistance from the international community in the fight against piracy, and he urged other nations to intensify their assistance to Seychelles.
“I will be frank with you. We are not satisfied with the level of assistance we are presently getting in the fight against piracy. Proportionally, we are putting in a lot more effort and resources in combating this scourge in relation to our means. Messages of congratulation and encouragement are well appreciated, but not enough! Moral support alone will not make us win the fight against piracy. We need more assistance, more training, more resources, and increased logistics. This is my appeal today to the international community, especially the maritime powers. They need to show greater solidarity. We are in this fight together. Let us strengthen the partnership. I ask them to put more resources and means at our disposal.”