Fishers afraid to sail after pirate attacks

-ministry puts ‘Long Hair’ on notice

Fishermen on the Corentyne are afraid to go out at sea following the terror they endured when pirates held them hostage last Thursday, robbing them of engines, ration and gasoline.

The three masked pirates, armed with guns, crammed the fishermen into one boat and released them at the mouth of the Berbice River on Friday evening.

Kevin Narine

In the wake of the attacks, the Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday warned escaped pirate Kevin `Long Hair’ Narine that it will soon catch up with him, while also urging police to be more aggressive so that ongoing piracy can be crushed. “Kevin Narine’s hair may be long but the long arm of the law will soon catch up with him and cut short his ill-gotten freedom,” a ministry statement said, while adding that law enforcement ranks must be “more assertive and aggressive” in hunting down and tracking pirates as well as persons harbouring pirates on land. There must be no room for indecisiveness [or] equivocation. The laws are there to be enforced and the administration has, time and again signalled its unqualified support to have the said laws enforced,” the statement said.

Narine, along with Rickford La Fleur, Vinood Gopaul and Vijay Seenarine escaped from the New Amsterdam Prison on June 11. Only Seenarine has since been recaptured.

Reports are that the fishermen from the No. 66 Fish Port Complex had already loaded their boats with ice and other items, but they were fearful after learning of the threats the pirates had made. Some of the other fishermen who were robbed had told them that the men threatened that in seven days [after that robbery] “they would see the real thing,” alluding to bigger robberies.

The pirates first hijacked a boat belonging to a fisherman of Rosignol and used that to carry out the robberies on about 14 other boats. He has recovered some of the items that were stolen. The pirates fired several shots in the air and one of the bullets hit a fisherman in the shoulder. The incidents occurred just off the coast, between Eversham and Bush Lot.

They also rammed a boat belonging to a fisherman of the upper Corentyne and caused it to sink. That was the second boat to have sunk for the man in eight months as a result of piracy. A source told this newspaper that the members of the Berbice Anti-Piracy Committee (BAPC) are mostly from the No. 66 complex and they would go out on armed patrols. They had also assisted the police in Suriname in the capture of Narine in 2008. He had been in custody since then until his recent escape from prison. Before that, they had helped to catch other pirates and had also identified some of them including Narine.

However, they were disappointed that the men were always placed on bail and continued with the piracy and even threatened them.

The source said that during one of the patrols last April they had been able to recover a boat close to the Adventure foreshore with some stolen items including a quantity of fish, fish glue and gasoline belonging to a fisherman from the East Coast. Three persons escaped from the boat but one who was later recognized was held. He was charged and placed before the court and subsequently released on bail.

They pointed out during this latest attack the pirates asked for some of the boat owners by name. The fishermen said they fear for their lives.

They also feel that the “government should assist us because we catch the pirates and they [prison officers] allow them to get away.” They were also disappointed that “nobody from the government came to visit us. When the rice farmers suffer losses, they would go and sympathise with them and see how to assist them. Now the fishermen need assistance….”

Further, the anti-piracy body is also “disappointed that the magistrates do not know where the territorial water is. We are discouraged from going out and patrol because when we tell them that it happened in our territorial water nobody seems to believe.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Home Affairs said it has issued general directives to the Guyana Police Force to the effect that greater emphasis be placed on intelligence gathering in “B” Division with the objective of crushing piracy. It noted that “Long Hair” and his associates were provided support from persons who were detained by the police on suspicion of harbouring criminals and fugitives from justice and said that greater information sharing within the fishing community and with the law enforcement agencies is crucial to the success of dismantling and capturing the pirates and those who provide them with aid.

“On the international front, Guyanese law enforcement ranks are in contact with  their  Surinamese and French counterparts  with a view to tracking down and ferreting out “Long Hair” and his cohorts who are believed to be hiding out somewhere between the Suriname and French Guiana Borders,” it added.

The ministry also said that the small fishing community has a special role to play in stamping out this scourge since it is they who are being targeted. It further noted that is vital that the larger, better equipped “trawler” fishing community provide support to their “more disadvantaged and less resourced brothers in the fishing industry.”

The ministry also said yesterday that the report from the McLean Board of Inquiry into the New Amsterdam prison break has been received and the recommendations are being examined.

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