Dhaka: Bangladesh on Monday blamed a dictionary published by state-run academy for misinterpreting robbery as piracy and hurting the country`s economy as insurance companies demanded high premium for shipping its goods.
The foreign ministry alleged that a misleading term in a dictionary, released by state-run Bangla Academy, on rhymes in the sea appeared to cause malice to the country and affect the national economy.
"Under the UNCLOS definition there has not been a single incident of `piracy` ever happened in the high seas of Bangladesh... but the Bangla Academy dictionary used the term to describe a misleading word `jaladasya`," additional foreign secretary Rear Admiral (retd) Khurshed Alam told a press conference today.
He said the word `jaladasya` meaning `robbery in waters` was relatively a newer coinage adopted during the British period some 150 years ago.
He alleged the frequent "misinterpretation" of incidents by newspapers calling "petty theft" or "robbery" as "piracy", a severe crime in international maritime arena, maligns the country and makes external trading costly as insurance companies claim high premium in insuring consignments destined to and from Bangladesh in ships.
Alam said under the International Maritime Law, the term piracy could be used only when a ship is hijacked or robbed beyond 200 nautical miles of the shoreline of a country and if it happens within the limit that could be called "theft" or "robbery", a mild crime as compared to piracy.
He showed the pictures of sword wielding and dangerous looking medieval European pirates and traditional lungi-clad ordinary looking Bangladeshis sitting in police custody and asked if the latter could be called "pirates".
The senior foreign ministry official, however, said in most cases the foreign ships report incidents of "piracy" to International Maritime Bureau (IMB) just to adjust their store inventory while they illegally barter the goods like paints or
ropes with local fishermen in exchange of products like fresh meat.
"In most cases, the foreign ships do not even report the incidents to coastguards or other concerned authorities so the fishermen with whom they exchanged the things could move beyond the reach of the law enforcement people," Alam said.
He said the Singapore-based ReCP, however, acknowledged the real incidents calling them "barter" as the ship crew while at anchor in the outer anchorage of Chittagong, engaged themselves in the barter trade during dark hours of the night.
Alam also pointed out that annually, 2,500 ships visit the Chittagong Port while only eight to 10 incidents of so-called "robbery" are reported, but the exaggerated newspaper reports largely caused by the misleading dictionary term exposed Bangladesh to a blame for something which is "misnomer".
Bangladesh has already asked IMB to investigate the cases ahead of portraying it a "piracy prone" country while the international watchdog already changed its definition of piracy as requested by the country, he said.