Authorities in Suriname are continuing to brainstorm how to handle Guyanese fishermen there.
That nation’s fishing sector, until now, has over the years remained one that was largely unregulated.
The situation came to a head over a month ago when fishermen, in an apparent turf war, attacked four fishing vessels; beating, chopping and dumping the crewmen overboard.
At least 11 persons remain missing with four bodies recovered. Only five survivors made it to shore.
It was one of the deadliest and most shocking incidents of its kind, with the police working on the theory that the attack stemmed from a feud and drive-by shooting murder of a boat owner, a Guyanese who lived in Suriname.
Nineteen of the 20 fishermen were Guyanese. The attackers were also said to be Guyanese.
Both the attackers and the fishing crews were said to be living between Suriname and Guyana.
The problem was identification. Authorities complained that they were unable to immediately identify the missing fishermen from the attack.
Fishermen were turning up for work on boats without the immediate need for identification.
Guyana and Suriname have been investigating the incident with worried families and fishing authorities involved, as the fallout continues.
Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, and a team of police officers had journeyed to Suriname, with that country sending a delegation to conduct investigations here.
Suriname media entity, the De Ware Tijd, reported yesterday that the fishermen’s association met with Minister Soewarto Moestadja van Arbeid and talked about improving the working conditions of fishermen and lifting the illegality of foreigners on fishing boats.
The report said that from indications, the fishermen working on the boats in Surinamese waters are almost 100 percent Guyanese and are without work permits. This is in violation of the Work Permit for Aliens Act.
It appeared that from accounts, there were abuses in the field of labour in this sector.
For example, the licence holder of the boat appears to be the client who outsources the work to a contractor who in this case is the captain. The captain in turn enters into an oral agreement with sub-contractors who are fishermen.
Since there is little or no interest among Surinamese in fishing, the captain recruits the fishermen in Guyana. The arrangement is one of business partners, rather than employer-employee relationship.
There were suggestions to remove the illegality by ensuring regularization of the Guyanese fishermen and improvement of working conditions on the fishing boats.
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