May 02, 2018 News
Guyanese and Suriname authorities have activated a major search and rescue operation for 16 fishermen, 15 of them said to be Guyanese, who were beaten and thrown overboard by pirates last Friday night.
Up to late last evening, Suriname justice minister, Stuart Getrouwof, said that the National Coordination Centre for Disaster Relief (NCCR), the National Army and the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries (LVV) have launched an in-depth investigation.
Guyana’s Minister of State, Joseph Harmon, disclosed that he has received information and has activated the necessary mechanisms of cooperation.
“There are immediate searches, we are still working,” the Suriname minister assures in a Star Nieuws report.
”I read that the actions have stopped, nothing is less true,” says the minister. The Coast Guard, the military and the Police Force Suriname are still looking for survivors with support from French Guiana. According to the minister, the searches will continue. An aircraft is being used also, he said.
The minister pointed out that the search is of enormous importance to the family members of the fishermen. There were initial reports in Suriname yesterday that the search was abandoned.
The four boats with 20 crew members were attacked by sea pirates on Friday evening in Surinamese waters in the vicinity of the Wia Wia bank. Only four of the crew members, including a captain of one of the boats, managed to make it to shore. The rest are believed to have perished.
It is believed that the attack was retaliation by pirates from Guyana for the shooting death of their leader, a Guyanese pirate called “Paddy” a few weeks ago. The pirates blamed the fishermen. The pirate leader was reportedly shot dead during an attack on fishing vessels.
It did not make the news in Guyana.
Since the news of the attack on Friday evening became known, the jetty at the Anton Dragtenweg, Suriname, where these boats normally moor, was flooded by desperate family members. They believe the authorities have acted too slowly.
Officials in Suriname said that 15 of the missing men are indeed Guyanese, living both in Guyana and in Suriname.
Mark Lall, chairman of the Visserscollectief, confirmed that one of the vessels was found submerged.
The fishermen were thrown overboard or had to jump into the water themselves. One of the crew members could not swim and he disappeared. Another person’s hands were tied and a car battery was attached to his feet, after which he was thrown overboard.
The attackers were recognized as Guyanese with names given as ‘Dick’, ‘Bolo’, ‘Sanbat’ and ‘Crack Head’. They are said to be known pirates from Guyana.
“The chance of survivors is very small,” says Lall.
The captain, a Guyanese whose name was given as ‘Pattar’, and who survived the gruesome assault, told Suriname police that he saw how the hijackers beat the crew members, who were already wounded and in the water, with bamboo sticks on their heads.
Among the missing, there are men between 20 and 21 years old.
On Facebook, families started posting pictures of their missing loved ones.
From the Number Two Village, Canje, East Berbice, 19-year-old Ralph Anthony Couchman called ‘Burnham’ is missing. His family said this was his third trip to Suriname to work on the boat.
Another man, from the same village, known only as ‘Crank’ is one of the men that is missing too.
Across at Fort Ordnance Housing Scheme, in Canje, Ganesh Persaud called ‘Vicky’ was said to be missing. Relatives of the 27-year-old were in Suriname yesterday searching for answers.
Another victim was identified as Tilaknauth Mohabir, 50.
In Guyana, Crime Chief, Paul Williams, speaking with this publication via telephone, disclosed that authorities here are in close contact with their counterparts in Suriname. Williams said that the police in Suriname have since told him that the attack was carried out on Friday, but it was not reported until Saturday.
Williams said that the search had been concentrated on two areas..
Meanwhile, fishermen at the Number 43 fishing wharf, on the Corentyne, said that the attack “did not just happen like that” but there was the strong likelihood that it was sparked by an old rivalry between fishermen.
According to the fishermen, there would be friction when fishermen infringe on waters of others.
From information to the Guyanese fishermen, the attack occurred between the French Guiana, Cayenne and Parimaribo, Suriname borders.
It was explained that in order for fishermen to ply their trade in that area, a license to fish is required. Guyanese many times, they added, would “rent licence from Suriname people to go deh and sometimes dem does go deh without licence (illegally) and fish”.
According to one fisherman, “Dem does come over and hire people, some time from Mon Repos, Rosignol, all over. Dem people that missing mussy living in Suriname, because the area where that thing happen is far and we boats them don’t go out there. Dem does hire you and take you over and you live deh for six months and you come and go back if you want.”
Suriname news was reporting that the searchers included the boat owners and even a helicopter.
The criticisms of the attacks, one of the deadliest by pirates in recent years, were swift, with calls for authorities in Guyana to track down the pirates.
Thousands of Guyanese live in that neighbouring country. It is not unknown for scores of Guyanese fishermen to be working in Suriname waters and to return after every trip.
It has been that way for years now.
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