One-off payment for relatives of piracy victims

Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan

GOVERNMENT on Friday will give a one-off payment to relatives of the men recently attacked by pirates.

In an advisory issued by the Ministry of Public Security, the presentation will be made by Vice-President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan. The presentation will be held at 10.00hrs in the boardroom of the Ministry of Public Security, Lot 6 Brickdam, Stabroek.

President David Granger had declared Monday last a National Day of Mourning and flags were flown at half-staff at several public buildings in memory of over a dozen fishermen killed at sea by pirates back in April. During Monday’s sitting of the National Assembly, a moment of silence was observed by both sides of the House in a show of solidarity for the victims of the carnage at sea in Suriname’s waters.

On Monday, Ramjattan said the Day of Mourning for the slain fishermen coincides with the United Nations Day of Seafarers, and that President David Granger’s proclamation was a fitting tribute in memory of their passing. The names of those who died and the 16 still missing and feared dead were stated for the record.

During the incident, five boats with approximately 20 crew members were attacked, but nine survived the brutal ordeal. The mangled bodies of four were recovered, while 12 remain missing and are feared dead. The Romeina, commanded by Captain Deonarine Goberdan, is believed to have been the first boat to come under attack sometime around 18:30hrs. Goberdan, the father of 17, said he drifted 22 hours some eight miles away from shore and was barely able to remain afloat until reaching land and notifying police. The bodies of the two crew members that washed ashore were identified as Tillacknauth Mohabir and Mahesh Sarjoo.

Those of Bharrat Heeralall and another identified only as “Palam” are still missing. The Romeina, too, is still missing and believed to have been stolen by the pirates. The Joshua, owned by Rosey Jones, was found submerged in water. It is believed that it was sunk by the pirates after the attack. Its captain, “Aki Bhai”, was the lone survivor of that vessel and has since gone into hiding, purportedly fearing for his life. One of his crew members was Lalta Persaud, a father of four who had migrated to Suriname over 18 years ago. The others are known only by the nicknames “Spanish Man”, “Bandara” and “Mukesh”.
And while the name of the third vessel has not yet been confirmed, its crew have been identified as Ramesh Sanchara, Ramnarine Singh, Looknarine Persaud, Rajendra Bissessar. The captain, Dharmendrew Persaud, was also one of the survivors of the ordeal. The last boat believed to have been attacked sometime after 01:00h on Saturday, May 5, was the Shifanie, owned by Hemnlall Ramsarran.

Its captain was Danesh Persaud of Sheet Anchor, East Canje, while crew members were Ralph Anthony Couchman, Glendroy Jones and Gowkaran Outar, whose body was washed ashore at the Number 63 Beach, and the lone survivor, Sherwin Lovell. The Guyana Government, through round-the-clock aerial monitoring and the constant presence of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), has been able to see a decline in piracy in Guyana’s waters, which had reached epidemic proportions prior to 2015.

In neighbouring Suriname, a prayer service was held at the Guyana Embassy on Henck Arronstraat in downtown Paramaribo, where many of the relatives of the dead or missing seamen who live in Guyana were assembled. Here in Guyana, as the national standard flew at half-staff as decreed by President Granger, Poonai Bhigroog, President of the Central Corentyne Chamber of Commerce, lauded the initiative, and called for a follow through on the promised assistance for relatives of the victims.

He also commended the efforts of the local police in capturing several of those allegedly responsible for the crime, and urged fisherfolk to be more vigilant and to put measures in place for their own safety.

Chairman of the Upper Corentyne Fishermen Cooperative Society, Pameshwar Jainarine, echoed those sentiments, and he, too, noted that the life of a fisherman is a very dangerous one. Said he: “I want to thank the President for putting aside today as a National Day of Mourning for the fishermen that lost their lives in the recent piracy attack, and I feel some sort of financial relief should be given to the relatives, because, in most instances, the fishermen that passed away were the sole breadwinners of their families.”
Between April 27 and May 3, five fishing vessels with a combined crew of 25 men were attacked in Suriname’s waters by a gang of pirates, allegedly at the behest of the Manohar family in retaliation for the death of one of its members, Somnauth Manohar, who was allegedly killed by fishermen in a drive-by shooting on March 30 in Suriname. Thus far, Nakool Manohar, called “Fyah”, a businessman of  Number 43 Village,  and Premnauth Persaud, called “Sinbad”, have been jointly charged for the murder of two of the fishermen, namely Mahesh Sarjoo, called “Vishal”, and Tilacknauth Mohabir, called “Caiman”. One Alexander Denhearte was also charged for the murder.

The matter is still being investigated, and the local police have formally requested to be allowed to interrogate the suspects arrested in Suriname.