Sister steps up as govt backs down
DESPITE all the months of high-level negotiations, in the end Nigel Brennan’s release came down to the work of one woman: his sister, Nicky Bonney.
Entrepreneur Dick Smith, who yesterday confirmed he helped finance Mr Brennan’s release from captivity in Somalia, said Mrs Bonney had done an outstanding job of negotiating the deal to let her brother go.
“Nicky negotiated with the kidnappers herself — she did all the direct communication,” Mr Smith said.
“She had advice from a security company, but she did it all, the calls and talking.
“As a businessman, I consider myself quite tough because I don’t want to lose money — but Nicky and the family were amazing. They did a very good job.”
But while Mr Smith praised the actions of the Brennan family, he criticised the Australian Government for not doing enough to bring Mr Brennan home.
“After 11 months of the government’s failure, in three months the family got them out,” Mr Smith said.
“Bundaberg people should be very proud that you’ve got such a competent family that could negotiate the release, when the Australian and Canadian governments couldn’t.”
He said the Brennans had been let down by Australian officials.
“The Australian and the Canadian governments were trying to do the right thing, but I think they didn’t have enough experience (in hostage negotiations),” he said.
Mr Smith would not put a dollar figure on his contribution to the ransom, but said the total was less than the US$1 million mentioned in some news reports.
“The ransom was nowhere near $1 million. I can still afford to eat,” he said.
Mr Smith was approached by Australian Greens leader Bob Brown, who also donated money, after Nigel’s father Geoff Brennan started fundraising to save his son.
He said the family was desperate for help, 11 months into their son’s kidnap nightmare.
“(The Brennans) had sold everything they had, and they were running sausage sizzles to try and raise money. I could see there was no way they could get anywhere near the amount of money they needed,” Mr Smith said.
“So I said, don’t worry about money, I’ve got that covered — you just think about the negotiations.”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith admitted yesterday the Australian Government’s efforts to free Mr Brennan had failed, but denied that more could have been done to help him.
“I’m absolutely satisfied that within the very strict parameter of the Australian Government not paying the ransom, we did everything that we reasonably and sensibly could in a very flexible way to try and secure Nigel and Amanda’s release,” the Minister said.
“In the event our efforts were not successful. Ultimately the family and others were successful and we welcome that very much.”
Mr Brennan and Amanda Lindhout yesterday received medical care in Nairobi, ahead of plans to fly the pair to their respective homes when they are well.