“We have succeeded in getting the world community to realize that this is not a localized problem, but it is an international problem that requires an international response… I have warned in the past that the problem is piracy today, but tomorrow it is terrorism, and this is indeed what we are seeing develop, as we have seen in Kenya most recently,” said the President following the first day of discussions.
President Michel had raised the Somali piracy issue during his state visit to Australia in August this year and today is greatly encouraged by the announcements made by the Australian government at the opening day of CHOGM that it will host a counter-piracy conference in Perth next year. The 2012 conference will examine the means by which Somalia can be assisted, as well as other affected countries, in anti-piracy cooperation.
The President also commended the resolve of the Commonwealth countries to cooperate against piracy, which was expressed during the Indian Ocean Piracy Forum that was held in the margins of the CHOGM on Friday, and was chaired by the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd and the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Baroness Catherine Ashton.
“It is important that the participants agreed that regional ownership and burden sharing is essential to this combat, and also that the countries of the region share a common legal heritage that presents opportunities for Commonwealth, as well as other organizations, to deliver legal assistances and support to criminal justice systems,” said the President.
The President furthermore acknowledged the support of the European Union (EU) in the fight against piracy, both in terms of the Atlanta operation, as well as regional anti-piracy projects.
“The coast states of the Indian Ocean need more support - both in terms of maritime assets, in terms of prisons, and in terms of legislative and human resource capacity building. These coastal states are in the majority Commonwealth states- and we salute the efforts of our partners: Mauritius, Kenya, Tanzania, The Maldives, and Mozambique. We also thank the government of India for its proactive role in helping our Coast Guard and training our military for appropriate response to piracy at sea. We believe the Commonwealth is ideally situated to bring more support to the member states to provide technical assistance for legal framework for prosecuting pirates.”
The President also said that the financiers of piracy must be targeted and pursued through surveillance, so that the true beneficiaries of the illegal trade may be brought to justice.
Mr. Michel also said that the Commonwealth needs to reinforce the capacity of the Somali people to tackle their security problems and to be able to pursue their economic activities in peace.
President Michel attended the Opening Ceremony of the CHOGM, which was opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and attended by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia, Julia Guillard, and the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma, together with heads of government and foreign ministers of the 54 countries of the Commonwealth.
The theme for CHOGM 2011 is “Building global resilience, building national resilience.”