By Ramona Luthi
Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo on Wednesday asserted that President David Granger is “out of touch” with the issue regarding the piracy attacks staged on Guyanese fishermen on Surinamese waters.
“Last week Thursday, the President described this as a massacre of Guyanese abroad and I would have expected that once the President described this as a massacre then the entire goverment will treat this issue as a priority- the security forces, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all the agencies associated with protecting Guyanese here at home and abroad…The President…used the occasion to score political points. He said ‘we’ve been successful at curbing piracy over the past three years.”
Jagdeo said that had the President visited the affected victims and their families, and engaged with the individuals, he would realize how critical the situation is.
“The president is hopelessly out of touch with the issue. He thinks that because it is not happening in Guyanese waters, it’s not happening at all,” Jagdeo said, while explaining that 95 per cent of the fishing activities being done in Suriname, are being done by Guyanese folks.
He further sought to lambaste the Government on their apparent slow and “lackadaisical approach” to making contact with Surinamese law enforcement entities regarding the situation.
Touching on the recent visit by Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan to Suriname to meet with authorities over the attacks, Jagdeo said “…Imagine almost 8 or nine days after the massacre, and you’re telling people that the reason for your visit was to tell them that you’re there to cooperate…You could have picked up a phone the next day…If this doesn’t represent negligence…Its unbelievable…It shows how they have treated this matter.”
Moreover, the Opposition Leader said that while he did not intend to make this into a political matter, his party will be bringing it up in the National Assembly on Friday, so as to ensure that our Government pushes for the appropriate actions to be taken.
“We intend to raise this matter in Parliament on Friday but the reason I have been speaking about it, although we’re going to raise it in parliament is that I don’t want to win mileage in Parliament on this issue…I’m raising it because I want the Minister to know what will be in our motion long ahead before we raise it in parliament and it’s debated so he has a chance to come prepared to address these issues,” Jagdeo explained.
Furthermore, he noted that among other things his party will be demanding to know what is being done locally and in Suriname and the measure of collaboration on this issue.
“…We want to be assured that the security forces of the two countries are collaborating at the highest levels to ensure that we catch these perpetrators. We want assurances from the Minister,” Jagdeo posited.
He further asserted that he has asked his party member, former Attorney General, Anil Nandlall to look into the “terrorism act” in Guyana so as to see what appropriate penalties can be meted out against the pirates even though the crime was not committed in our country.
“If we use the Terrorism Act, I believe we will have jurisdiction. The United States of America, if you commit an act of terrorism against any American or anyone else in any part of the world, they hold you responsible. We too must use the tools that we have to protect our people whether they’re at home or abroad from criminals of this nature,” he asserted.
Two Saturdays ago, four boats were attacked by a group of men who brutalised the occupants by chopping them about their bodies, drenching them in hot oil and then tying the barely alive men on to batteries before throwing them overboard.
Two days later, another boat was attacked and the captain killed. The crew is still missing.
Those identified as missing include Ramesh Sanchara, Ganesh Persaud, Vickey Persaud, Glenroy Jones, Bharat Heralall, Ralph Anthony, and Tiaknauth Mohabir, among others.
So far, five persons have survived the attacks, while bodies that were recovered are yet to be positively identified.
This publication was informed that the relatives of the missing fishermen are complaining about the treatment meted out to them by the Surinamese authorities since they are not allowed to view the recovered bodies of the men.
The Surinamese Police said they have 13 in custody but the country’s Justice and Police Minister, Stuart Faith reported that 30 persons have been arrested. The arrests, he noted, were made on water and on land.
Meanwhile, Surinamese Defence Minister Ronni Benschop assured that in a week’s time, the fishermen could safely return to work at sea after the fisherfolks refused to work in light of the deadly attacks.
The Guyanese authorities also have three persons in custody assisting with investigations on this end.