If this was you or your family wouldn’t you want the government to do more? 137



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It’s been just four days since Ken and Jocelyn Elliott were kidnapped in by Islamist extremists in northern Burkina Faso. One can only imagine how frightened they must be, and the conditions in which they find themselves.

The couple was snatched from the charity hospital they have run in the African country since 1972, and their children have released a statement in which they called on the group, which is believed to be linked to Al Qaeda-linked jihadists, according to the ABC, to let their parents go.

“The Elliotts would urge those who have taken Ken and Jocelyn to strive constructively for peace, to the benefit of all people in the region, and release their parents safe and sound so that they may continue to assist those who are in need of their services,” the statement said.

Behind the scenes of this statement, the family must be feeling intense desperation. They must also be feeling incredibly alone and overwhelmed as they try to navigate hostage negotiations on their own. For it’s part, the government cannot offer much assistance to the Elliotts.

Clive Williams, an expert in hostage situations from Macquarie University explained the government’s position in WA Today. He said that, while the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Federal Police will work with local authorities in Mali and Burkina Faso to find out who the kidnappers are and what they want, there is no question of the government putting up money for ransom.

“Australia’s policy, like that of Britain and the United States, is not to pay ransoms. This is logical because once a country pays a ransom it is seen as a soft touch for future demands. It also makes the nationals of that country preferred targets for kidnapping.”

“Because of our national no-payment policy, once Australian agencies have established it is a serious kidnapping by an insurgent or terrorist group, it is better for them to disengage from any contact with the hostage-takers and hand over negotiation to an experienced private security organisation that can act as a go-between for the family and the hostage-takers (DFAT and the AFP do, of course, continue to provide valuable support in other ways). Unlike the US, Australia has little capacity to resolve overseas hostage situations by force.”

Understanding why the nation can step in to protect these citizens, who are in their 80s, doesn’t make it any easier for those involved.

In 2009, Dick Smith and Senator Bob Brown were compelled to step in and contribute to the ransom raised by the family Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan, who was a hostage in Somalia. His co-hostage was released after the Canadian government paid her ransom.

Brennan has said his kidnapping could have been resolvable in a matter of months. Instead it took 15 months. Professor Williams says, “The AFP could offer nothing that the hostage-takers wanted, and was not reliably contactable anyway. On one occasion after a hiatus in negotiations, the hostage-takers called the AFP on a contact number they had been given in Canberra, but it was a long weekend and the AFP phone was not manned at the time.”

Professor Williams says that, while we can hope for a speedy outcome for the Elliotts, it is unlikely. “Assuming it is a kidnap for ransom, their family might also have difficulty in raising sufficient money to gain their release. The Elliotts’ long experience of local conditions and Ken Elliott being a doctor might help to maintain their health; he should also be useful to his captors in dealing with local health issues and battle casualties,” he says.

Do you think the government should make an exception for this case, taking into account the Elliotts age? Or should we stick to the hardline approach?

Starts at 60 Writers

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  1. I know this is hard to watch from a distance but they have a strong faith in God and know they are in His hands, not the governments or even those who captured them. Pray for God’s comfort for them and those who love them, as well as their captors, as this story unfolds.

    8 REPLY
    • if there was a god these people have already shown their faith then why did he abandon them to psychopaths. If a lifetime of true humanity cannot guarantee you protection then praying is going to do nothing, start collecting donations instead.

    • Fred Avey God would never abandon you and these two people would tell you that. He will be with them no matter what.

    • Just ignoring their plight at the moment maybe. .? Two many things on his mind..like how to get rid of Turnbull…

    • Sadly, they are well and truly in the hands of their captors and if your God had anything to do with it, He would not have allowed it to happen in the first place. I certainly will not pray for the captors!

    • They are not in any gods hands. How anyone can still ‘have faith’ as they say after seeing what is happening in this world, and has been happening over and over again is just beyond me!

    • How does any person in today’s world believe in a “God” that cares and will look after them!?! Good grief we evolved people!!

  2. What a world we live in. Two kind, caring people trying to make a difference in the lives of so many people who had the misfortune to be born in a 3rd world country. We have no idea how many lives they have saved in the 50 years they have been there, probably way too many to count.

    1 REPLY
    • I don’t think they were born there, they’re Australians, went there about 50 years ago to build a hospital and care for the poor and needy.

      1 REPLY
      • He didn’t say they were born there. He was talking about the misfortune of being born into a 3rd world country.

  3. What the government can do and what it will do is moot….firstly some organisation has to.admit to kidnapping them. All i can say is if these mad jihardist keep doing this sort of thing aid agencies and medical aid is going to dry up…but that is just what the jihardists want so they can prove to the poor population of the countries that they are oppressing that the west truly is decadent and uncaring.

  4. Every one that has power should help to get them out look at all the good they have done for humanity !!

  5. The government is probably working behind the scene, if a ransom is paid we will never no as the government is a secret government

  6. I fervently hope that these good people are released and come home safely, but, I don’t know what the government can do, other than negotiate for their safe release. I’m hoping for some behind the scenes stuff to be going on that we are unaware of!

  7. Don’t depend on this government to help Bloody useless 👎but I feel for these wonderful people hope they will be released safely but that do is in the balance as these terrorists are brutal but it’s time people start to realise this barbaric regime needs to be wiped out.😥

  8. Whats the African government doing about it? After all they have been over there working to help the African people for years.

    3 REPLY
    • They have been there for 40 odd years. the African Government should be the ones to cugh up. I know this sounds heartless but it is what it is

    • Pauline Frauenfelder Africa does not have just one government. There are many different governments on the continent of Africa.

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