Guyana’s reaction on piracy late, Surinamese official says

(de Ware Tijd) PARAMARIBO — Suriname has been sounding the alarm for a year already about the shocking incidents at sea, but neighbouring Guyana has never responded. Surinamese officials say the western neighbours could have done more to stem the increasing cases of piracy at sea. ‘Now they are complaining and point the finger to Suriname. But what have they been doing all the while? Lt. Colonel Jerry Slijngard, of the Coast Guard fumes it is no time for the blame game.

The Coast Guard official reacts to the ruckus in Guyana about the umpteenth gruesome act of piracy in Surinamese waters early this month. Four fishermen, the youngest 19 and the oldest 41, were thrown in sea with tied hands and feet. A fifth victim, Feroze Hack, captain of the boat, survived the incident which took place on 8 July off the Surinamese coast.

The body of 41-year-old Andre Gopie washed ashore ten days later in Guyana. No trace of the other victims, Vinesh Drunarain (24), Raymond Gomez (37) and Chandrapaul Jallim (19) has yet been found. The authorities assume these men, all Guyanese, are dead.

Illegal

‘These are most likely illegal fishermen operating in Surinamese waters. The pirates are Guyanese and they deliberately targeted their countrymen knowing that they would not report their case to the Surinamese officials,’ Mark Lall, of the Fishermen Association which registers most small-scale fishermen, assumes.

‘Guyana should be glad Suriname is moving to fight piracy. We have a coast guard and fishermen have a GPS tracking system for their protection. Why don’t the Guyanese do the same,’ he adds. Slijngard thinks the Guyanese reactions stems more from the fact that this time the victims were their own.

‘I reported in the media that the men were tied on hand and foot, cut up with machetes and then thrown overboard. Guyana had to react much sooner instead of launching accusations,’ he emphasizes. Earlier this year Surinamese authorities had criticized the Guyanese laxity towards piracy at sea.

Organized

There allegedly is proof of organized crime happening with the consent of local Guyanese officials. Slijngard cannot comprehend why the criminals can flee to the Guyanese side without consequences. Lall says the figures show that almost all pirates at sea come from Guyana.

Slijngard emphasizes that cooperation between the police of both countries is inefficient to stem the problem. ‘We have to step up cooperation at all levels, including exchange of information in order to react. The army official favors more political cooperation and assistance from the coast guards of both countries, stating that neither country can deal with the problem on its own.

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