Coast Guard nabs three piracy suspects, two escape dragnet
- victims recall harrowing high sea ordeal
Three days after five heavily-armed pirates carried out vicious attacks on fishermen off the northernmost tip of Guyana’s coastline in Region One, members of the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard yesterday nabbed three suspects and handed them over to the police.
The men were captured with six outboard engines in their possession as well as three buckets of fish glue worth $300,000, in the vicinity of Waini, where they were hiding out.
Two of their accomplices managed to escape with the weapons they used to terrorise several fishing crews last Saturday.
Police officers at the Charity Outpost were interviewing the men, individually, and they expected to ascertain the identities of the two masterminds who remain on the loose.
Police in a statement issued yesterday afternoon had indicated that acting on information received, an operation was conducted in the Morawhanna and Barima River areas on Monday. According to the police, during the operation, three men were arrested and five outboard motor engines, a 12-volt battery, a quantity of fish glue, a GPS, six cell phones and a boat that was used during the robberies were recovered by the police. The boat was stolen from an area on the East Coast of Demerara.
Omawattie Sankar, whose husband Muni Lall owns the stolen boat Miss Nekesha told this newspaper that the vessel went missing sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning from the La Bonne Intention (LBI) koker where it was moored.
Sanksr said that on Friday her husband had cleaned and secured the boat, complete with seine, and prepared it for a trip to sea on Sunday.
According to Sankar, on Saturday, at around 05:45 hours, one of her husband’s friends contacted him and told him that the boat was missing.
When the boat owner, who lives at Block CC Mon Repos, East Coast Demerara, arrived at the LBI foreshore, he confirmed that his boat was indeed missing. He and others secured another boat and went out to sea in a desperate attempt to recover the stolen boat which is valued at more than half a million dollars.
While at sea, they were lucky to recover the seine, which is estimated to cost over one million dollars. It had been dumped overboard by the pirates. There was, however, no trace of the boat until yesterday, when it was reported that it was used in last weekend’s pirate attacks.
“Only last year July the boat go out to sea for the first time. It is a brand new boat,” Omawattie Sankar lamented.
“It is the first thing we own. We go into a lot of debt fuh this boat,” she added.
They are hoping that the police will conduct a speedy investigation so that the boat could be returned to them as early as possible.
Meanwhile, one of the affected boat captains and his four crew members are thankful for their lives after being held captive by pirates in the Kamwatta area on Saturday evening. The captain, Robert Boodwah, told this publication that the incident occurred some seven miles from Waini, at around 20:30 hours.
Boodwah, who only returned to the Annandale foreshore on Monday evening at 22:00 hours, said he and his crew drifted in rough waters for an entire day before being rescued by a passing trawler.
Recounting his experience, Boodwah said on Saturday evening they were ‘icing down’ their catch when a boat with four men approached them.
“Dis boat come up to we boat wid four men and ah dem had mask and big gun, so dey call everybody out and carry we to the back to lay down on the seine,” the man recalled.
He added that as the men stood over them with their guns, they were then ordered to remove the two engines which were affixed to their vessel.
“Dey mek we tek off we two engine, a 48 horsepower and a 40 horsepower, and put it in dem boat, and den dey go in de cabin and start tumbling up.”
The men, who spoke with this publication as they sold their catch at the Annandale seawall, said the gunmen then took a portion of their ration, three cellular phones, their global positioning system (GPS), a cooking gas bottle and a portion of fish glue, before escaping in their vessel. Fortunately no one was gravely injured during the ordeal.
Robert Boodwah related that he and his crew were lucky that the men who robbed them were not in a violent mood. “Only one time one a dem men lash one ah dem boy on he foot with a gun and tell he hurry up.”
Having being left without their engines, the men said they were left drifting in high waters until late Sunday evening when they received assistance from crewmen on a passing trawler.
“Whole night Saturday and whole day Sunday we ain’t eat because dem men tek away we cooking gas bottle so we couldn’t cook.”
The men said while in the company of the other fishermen on board the trawler, they were able to call the female owner of the vessel to inform her of what had transpired.
“The trawler bring we till to Georgetown and lef we behind Giftland and we boss lady send up a engine, and that is how we reach back home,” the captain said with a sigh of relief.
In the meantime, owner of the vessel, Cecilia Singh, told Kaieteur News that she is thankful that her workers are safe, but she expressed great concern over the recent upsurge of attacks on the high seas. Singh said that her son, who also operates a fishing boat, was attacked over the weekend and up to noon yesterday, efforts were being made to bring his boat back to shore. The woman said while many families in the community solely depend on fishing for a livelihood, this continues to be threatened, with no security from the authorities.
“The Ministry should put something in place, because it can’t pay fuh we deh buying engines every couple months. Even if they allow we to buy the engines duty-free we can work wid dat,” the woman suggested.
This recent incident has brought back dreaded memories for the Annandale/Sand Reef community which had lost six young fishermen after a pirate attack.
On October 12, 2007, Rameshwar Gangadin, his brother Navendra Gangadin, Patrick Parboo, his cousin Davendra Persaud, Christopher Rooplall and Mark Sylvester Parshram, left on a fishing trip. After three weeks of not hearing from them, their relatives became worried as the fishermen would not normally stay longer than 18 days at sea. Their worst fears were confirmed when the remains of three of the men eventually washed ashore.
Earlier this year there was a series of attacks by pirates in the Atlantic near the North West District coastline. A man and two of his sons have since been charged for that incident.
Angry fishermen on the Essequibo Coast are requesting that the recently captured pirates languish in prison, since they lament they are scared of venturing out to sea to fish, because of the constant attacks to which they have been exposed.