Piracy case creates turmoil in Corentyne fishermen’s co-op

-fishers were robbed by other crew

-boat owner’s membership suspended, workers banned from complex

The owner of a Corentyne boat that was robbed by a Guyanese fishing crew in Coronie, Suriname last month is denying that she has accepted compensation, although no report was made in the neighbouring country.

Sharmila Khelai told Stabroek News that a settlement of $700,000 was initially offered to her as that amount would have compensated her for the losses she suffered. But because of piracy being a serious offence and the implications involved, she has since refused to accept the money, while adding that she only discussed a settlement based on the advice of the Upper Corentyne Fishermen’s Coopera-tive Society Chairman Pravindrachandra Deodat. Deodat is, however, denying the claim.

Khelai told Stabroek News that she was forced to incur $300,000 in expenses to refuel and restock her boat to send it out to sea again.

Reports are that the rival crew in a vessel owned by Ahelia Alfred approached Khelai’s boat and questioned her workers about their catch. Her unsuspecting crew responded that they caught “35 huge snapper, one big gill-baker, valued $50,000, fish glue and cuirass,” amounting to almost $460,000.

Around 7 pm the unmasked men returned to the boat and looted the catch, as well as a “cross bar,” valued $18,000, engine lead worth $14,500 as well as a battery that cost about $29,000.

According to the sources, the victims returned from sea thinking they would see the alleged pirates trying to sell the fish.

Instead, they met with Alfred’s son-in-law, who is an executive member of the co-op and related what happened to him.

According to Deodat, “her (Alfred’s) membership has been suspended and it has to go to the general membership for a vote to have her expelled. Her workers got life-ban from entering the complex.”

He related that the membership of all the persons accused of being involved in piracy had been suspended and they had been “banned from working on fishing boats attached to the complex and from entering the compound.”

According to him, “We set a protocol and stand up for the right thing. I believe that every fisherman should go out there and make a decent living. Pirates cannot go and demand what belongs to other hardworking fishermen.”

When Stabroek News spoke to Alfred, she responded that she did not have anything to say because they “already sift out we story in Suriname.”

She said too that she sent out her crew members to work and is not aware of what they do out at sea.

 ‘The right thing to do’

Khelai is blaming the “executive members” of the Upper Corentyne Fishermen’s Cooperative Society “for not standing up by my side and advising me about the right thing to do.”

According to her, the matter was settled in Suriname between her and the owner of the other boat as well as their Surinamese “counterpart” that they are licensed with.

As a result, no report was made in that country.

Khelai said the Deodat had first suggested to her that she should settle the matter.

But when contacted by Stabroek News, Deodat denied that he told them to make financial settlement. He said he told them “to allow the boat to come in and they would see how they can resolve the matter…”

Deodat said, “I just told them that because I didn’t want them not to do anything foolish. I did not want them to tamper with anything….”

He recalled too that Alfred was shaken up when she visited the fisheries as she had suffered head injuries in an earlier accident where the shed of the complex had been blown off by high winds.

He lamented that the settlement was made in Suriname.

Khelai said Deodat had also instructed her to report the matter and she accompanied her husband and workers to the No 51 Police Station and she gave a statement.

The following morning she heard that the crew from the pirate boat and the owner,  Alfred were in Paramaribo and she and her husband and workers decided to go across.

When she got there, Khelai said that Alfred “started to cry and beg me to drop the matter and said she would repay our expenses. They still had all the fish and I told her to sell them so she can get money…”

She told this newspaper that the following day when Alfred’s crew arrived at the fisheries the police took them into custody. Based on advice from other fishers, she decided against accepting any money.

 

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