–to depart Venezuela today; families rejoice at good news
GUYANESE fishermen, who were detained on their boats in Venezuela for about two weeks, will use the very vessels to return home today, after being released by Venezuelan authorities on Monday. Leaving home close to one month ago, for what they would consider a routine fishing trip, took a turn for the worse when a Venezuelan naval vessel entered Guyana’s territory and apprehended them. It was reported that Venezuelan naval troops entered Guyana’s territory on January 21, and apprehended the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf, which are both owned and operated by Guyanese. According to information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Captain Richard Ramnarine of the Lady Nayera and Captain Toney Garraway of the Sea Wolf, after being apprehended in the Waini area, were instructed to chart a course to Port Güiria in Venezuela, where both vessels, which are registered in Essequibo, and the 12-member crew were detained.
On January 25, the 12-member crew appeared in a Venezuelan court, where they were informed that they will be held for 45 days on their boats, pending an investigation.
It is unclear why the Venezuelans reneged on their harsh decision to detain the men for such a long period of time, but the owner of the Sea Wolf vessel, Kumar Lalbachan, confirmed that the fishermen have been released and will set sail for Guyana today.
The crew members of the Sea Wolf are Garraway, Errol Gardener, Orland Roberts, Christopher Shaw, Shirvin Oneil and Randy Henry while those aboard the Lady Nayera are Ramnarine, Ramlakan Kamal, Nick Raghubar, Javin Boston, Michael Domingo and Joel Joseph.
“They are leaving there tomorrow at 8 [08:00hrs],” Lalbachan said during a telephone interview with the Guyana Chronicle on Tuesday evening.
An elated Lalbachan told this publication that Venezuelan authorities have seized the ‘catch’ of both vessels, but they have released the crew and the boats. This is especially great, he said, noting that the fishermen were running low on supplies.
The fishermen were in the custody of Venezuelan authorities for a little under two weeks, so it is only expected that food and other supplies would run low, since a fishing exercise usually lasts for about 20 days, and they were already 15 days into the trip prior to being captured.
While there was some level of uncertainty on whether Venezuela would provide supplies, Lalbachan said the fishermen were given fuel, food and water ahead of their trip back to Guyana.
From all indications, the men were not mistreated by Venezuelan authorities, but the mere fact of being detained in one area was torturous for the fishermen. But, with the way clear for their safe return to Guyana, the vessel owner said he is “very excited” to have his crew and ‘new’ boat back.
Trisha Roberts, the wife of one of the fishermen, Orland Roberts, is also excited for the return of not just her husband, but also the entire crew of fishermen who will soon be reunited with their families.
“I am happy that they were unharmed and that they will return with good health and strength, thanks to God,” Roberts said in an invited comment on Tuesday.
While the Guyana Chronicle was unable to reach the other family members, Roberts, who is in close contact with some of them, expressed gratitude and elation for the release of the fishermen, on behalf of everyone. Gratitude was also directed to the Government of Guyana for constantly engaging the Government of Venezuela and lobbying for the release of the Guyanese fishermen. Both Roberts and Lalbachan acknowledged the Government’s efforts, noting that had it not been for local authorities the men would have probably still been detained.
“I am pleased that it was dealt with diplomatically… we left it to the Government and we kept them updated,” Lalbachan said, noting that he reported to Government officials on a daily basis.
The Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, had issued a protest note to the Venezuelan Government, calling for the immediate release of the fishermen. This call was supported by Guyana’s regional and international partners. According to Lalbachan, the Government has already signalled its intention to continue its support, but this time in the form of a donation of two hampers to each household of the fishermen.