Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where is the Guyanese contribution to Corentyne River security?

Suriname deploys anti- piracy squad in Corentyne River
Reposted from GuyanaTimes ePaper 9/21/2011

By Michael Itwaru

In wake of a string of piracy attacks on Guyanese fishermen in the Corentyne River and the Atlantic Ocean, the Surinamese authorities have announced the deploy ment of a special unit in these areas to restore some order.

Last week, pirates at tacked at least seven Guyanese fishing boats off Nieuw Nickerie, and me dia reports said that the men were beaten and re lieved of their catches, out board engines, fuel and personal effects. Piracy off the Suriname and Guyana coasts has always been a source of concern, and on some occasions the pirates go beyond robbery to killing their victims and throwing them overboard.

It’s not the first time Suriname authorities have increased efforts to stem this problem. Pirates caught in Suriname face lengthy jail time, evidenced by the 12- and 14- year sentenc es six Guyanese pirates received in 2009 for attacking a yacht off Suriname.

In July, Kevin ‘ Long Hair’ Narine, a convicted pirate who fled a Guyanese prison, was arrested in Suriname after committing a series of attacks on fishing vessels. Narine and his fel low pirates are still in jail in Suriname awaiting trial.

The fate of five Guyanese fishermen who disappeared near the border in August is still not known. The five left Guyana on August 6 aboard the 52- foot- long Reshma , which was found aban doned, but the men have not been seen since. Law enforcement authorities fear that the men may have been attacked and killed by pirates.

Fishers in Berbice have reacted positively to the news of the Surinamese patrol. However, they are calling on the government of Guyana to match the ef forts of the Surinamese by deploying a similar team to maintain a strong pres ence in Guyana’s fishing grounds, while strengthen ing relations with its Dutchspeaking neighbour to wipe out the high- seas robbery of fishing crews.

Rosignol Fishermen's Co- op Society Chairman Sasenarine Harrinarine, when contacted on Suriname’s move, said it was a very good initiative, noting that it would cre ate an environment of safe ty for fishers to ply their trade in the lucrative fish ing grounds of Suriname.

Harrinarine also called on the Guyana government to respond in kind and set up a similar force to moni tor and patrol Guyanese fishing grounds. He thinks that a stronger security presence is needed day and night out where most of the commercial fishing happens in Guyana. He feels that if Guyana does not replicate the Surinamese action, lo cal fishers would continue to perish at the hands of pi rates who would now lurk in Guyana’s waters await ing fishers returning home.

Rosignol Fishermen Coop Society Treasurer Pooran Persaud stated: “ This is the kind of protection fishers have been calling for years, especially in the wake of re cent brutal attacks on fish ers while out at sea.” He noted that, up to Monday night, a member of the co- op was reportedly confronted by pirates. “ This should have been done a long time ago…. we need rigid patrol and policing of the water,” said Persaud.

He is echoing the calls by Harrinarine for Guyana to deploy a similar unit to spe cifically handle the increase in piracy.

Encouragement Meanwhile, Gansham “ King” Singh, a fisherman from the No 66 Co- op who was injured by pirates in a hijacking incident last Wednesday night, said he welcomed the news. He add ed that it has much encour aged him, because he was very reluctant to return to the trade after his latest ex perience.

Singh explained that the Surinamese routinely patrol the waters where they fish; however, their presence is temporary, and when they leave, the pirates emerge in the dead of night to rob fish ers.

Singh, who has been a fisher for 22 years and is currently a captain, was se verely beaten when he un successfully tried to outrun five pirates.

The bandits eventually seized Singh’s boat and took his crew hostage. He was beaten about the body with pieces of wood and cutlass es, and forced to drive his boat to seek out other fish ing crews which the pirates robbed. Singh sustained a broken left ring finger and internal injuries during the brutal beating, and can not work for the next two or three months as a result.

He is restricted to a bed or hammock. One of his crew members, Arnold Budhoo, sustained a fractured right knee from the same ordeal.