Dhow tragedy survivors fear payouts delay
Manama, June 12, 2011
Survivors of the Al Dana dhow disaster in Bahrain which killed 58 people fear their five-year battle for compensation could take another decade to resolve.
Two survivors had been called to the latest High Civil Court hearing to relive their experiences of one of the worst tragedies in Bahrain's history.
The Bahraini and Briton showed up and waited for a translator, but he failed to appear and the judge told them to leave.
He said the court now required the testimonies of two witnesses who were not on the boat when it sank off the coast of Bahrain and postponed the case until September 12.
It was the 11th time the case had been adjourned since it first appeared in court in July 2010.
Survivors first lodged a complaint seeking compensation in 2006.
'We went to the court, where they told us that a translation was needed, but as I am Bahraini I spoke to the judge in Arabic,' said one of the witnesses, who declined to be named.
'We waited and waited for a translator for the British man but one didn't arrive.
'After I spoke to the judge and gave him information, we were told that the witnesses had to be from outside the boat and not any of the survivors.'
The Bahraini questioned the logic of trying to find witnesses to an event which happened at sea after nightfall. 'How can we do that,' he asked.
'We were out at sea, it was dark and there were no other boats around us when it capsized, but somehow our lawyer needs to find witnesses.
'There is nothing we can do except wait for the lawyer to find them so that they appear in court.'
The men are part of the 46 survivors still fighting for compensation more than five years after the vessel capsized off the coast of Muharraq during a party on March 30, 2006.
The case earlier stalled when the court adjourned it three times in an attempt to summon Indian captain Rajendra Kumar Ramijibhai to testify.
However, he is now in India having been released early from a three-year sentence for manslaughter in August 2008 and will no longer be called to appear.
'No witnesses were brought so the hearing has had to be extended until September for the same reason,' said lawyer Ahmed Al Arrad, who is representing most of those seeking compensation.
Another survivor said she did not bother to contact her lawyer as she suspected there would not be any progress.
'No news, what a surprise,' said the woman, who also declined to be named.
'Perhaps 10 years more might solve the case.
'I think that this requirement of two outside witnesses is just an excuse to drag it out for even longer.
'Everything is clear, it has been since the very start when we gave all the relevant information.
'There is no need to spend five years thinking about the case.'
The survivor said if the tragedy had happened outside Bahrain it would have been dealt with sooner and justice would have been done.
'I don't know what is going on exactly but the owner must pay up, there is no doubt about it,' she said.
Another survivor laughed when he heard the hearing had been postponed.
'Once again, once again,' said the man, who declined to be named.
'I think perhaps we might need another four years to fight this and maybe then we might get somewhere.
'It has been the story for years now, they just keep changing the date and I just want to let it be now.'
The survivor is planning to leave Bahrain in the next few months and says he will wash his hands of the case.
'I'm going to leave Bahrain and that's it over with, I don't want anything from them,' he said.
Fifty-eight people died and 72 were injured when the Al Dana capsized during a Nass, Murray and Roberts party to celebrate the completion of the concreting work at the Bahrain World Trade Centre.
The South African company had hired the dhow from Island Tours, which in turn leased it from the Abdulla Al Kobaisi Company for Travel and Tourism.
The dhow's Bahraini owner Abdulla Al Kobaisi was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for five years, but was spared prison after offering to compensate survivors and relatives of the victims.
An out-of-court settlement was reached between the dhow owner and 98 per cent of survivors and relatives of people who died in the tragedy last April, it was claimed.
However, the 46 survivors currently involved in the court case rejected the idea that Al Kobaisi could pay off survivors and the families of victims without serving his sentence.
They include Bahrainis, Britons, South Africans, Indians, Pakistanis, Filipinos, Thais and Taiwanese, who rejected an initial offer of BD500 as 'disgusting' and took the case to court.-TradeArabia News Service