More Top Stories

Rugby Union

Bigger and busier 2023: PM

31 December 2022

Rugby league

Moana target 2025 World Cup

11 November 2022

Fiji PM in search for former Cooks sailors

Monday 12 June 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Fiji, Local, National, Politics, Regional


Fiji PM in search for former Cooks sailors
Fiji's prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka. Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka, who is due to visit the Cook Islands later in the year, is hoping to reunite with a group of Cook Islands sailors who were held hostage in the Indian Ocean by Tamil Tigers pirates in the late 1980s.

Rabuka will be among regional leaders attending the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting taking place from November 6-10 in Rarotonga.

During his visit, Rabuka is hoping to reunite with the former sailors who were captured and held hostage by the Tamil Tigers around the time when he was the commander of the Fiji Army between 1989-1990.

Rabuka, in an email to Cook Islands Friends of Fiji Inc, said Captain Enele Ma’afu, an ex-Fiji Navy, was the harbour master in Rarotonga at the time.

He was contacted about an international freighter manned by Cook Islands seamen captured in the Indian Ocean by the Tamil Tigers pirates.

Captain Ma’afu had called Rabuka to see if he could help negotiate the sailors’ rescue.

Rabuka managed to speak to the then Sri Lankan army senior officer, Brigadier Sarath Jayawardene, and asked him to try and secure the release of the Cook Islands seamen. 

This was successfully done and the seamen were flown by Sri Lankan government to Wellington, where the Cook Islands Government under the leadership of the late Sir Geoffrey Henry, flew them home to the Cook Islands.

Rabuka is trying to locate the sailors and their names and the name of their hijacked ship for his upcoming book.

He also wishes to meet up with any survivors or their families during his visit in November.

Anyone with any information on these seamen can contact the president of the Friends of Fiji Board, Tangaroa Vakalalabure on or +682 27919 or 87919 or its general secretary Charles Dakuliga on 54060.


Arthur Neale on 13/06/2023

Wouldn't this be the incident of the MV Marthalina detained by the Sri Lankan authorities when it called into Colombo to bunker fuel. It was carrying a consignment of rocket motors to Taiwan. At the time Sri Lanka was at war with the Tamil tigers in the northern part of Sri Lanka. You can read more about it in Capt. Don Silk's book. He was the captain of the ship on it's delivery from Europe to the Cook's.