Granger blasts gov’t for ‘dry land’ piracy campaign

In light of the recent spike in pirate attacks on fisher folks, PNCR presidential candidate David Granger has expressed the party’s “distress” at the manner in which the scourge is being addressed by the authorities.

There had been an upsurge in raids on fishermen, most notably, the recent attack on five boats and 24 fishermen by pirates off the Corentyne Coast on June 30.

In a statement read on CNS Channel Six yesterday, Granger expressed the party’s distress at statements attributed to Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, that Guyana needs “international cooperation” to suppress piracy.

Granger, also the presidential candidate of the opposition grouping APNU, said the statement was an admission of failure on the part of the Minister, adding that Rohee’s “confession” that he needed to review the measures put in place to tackle the issue “suggests that he has not been paying attention to the issue” and that the minister needed to do more.

Granger said too that Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud’s “congratulations” to fishing communities on Fisher Folks’ Day on June 29, “also sounded hollow and hypocritical in light of the recent spate of piracy.”

According to Granger, although Persaud argued that, “We cannot have piracy, hijacking, and robbery at sea continuing” the issue is “exactly what he and Rohee have been tolerating for the past five years.”

Granger charged that artisanal fishermen for years have complained bitterly and frequently to the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Home Affairs about violent attacks by pirates.

Granger’s statement added that the fishermen have begged the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force to provide better protection and, particularly, to help them to recover their engines, nets and other personal property, stolen by pirates.

It was noted too that gangs of pirates with fast boats and assault rifles have frequently pounced on crews of artisanal fishermen in small wooden boats powered by outboard engines, often within sight of land and with the most rudimentary equipment.

The GPF and the GDF Coast Guard “simply do not possess sufficient resources to conduct continuous patrols,” Granger argued.

“Ministerial statements are not enough to protect our fisher folk from piracy.  The reality is that, although the Police Force is deployed in all six coastal regions, it has no substantial marine establishment with sufficient vessels and skilled personnel to conduct maritime patrols by day and night along the coastland and in the estuaries of the numerous creeks and rivers,” he declared.

There are police divisions based in riverain or coastal areas to necessitate water transport for efficient prevention, detection and investigation of crime, his statement read. “Yet the marine police department is under-equipped, under-funded and under-staffed,” resulting in fishermen having thoughts that “it is a waste of time to complain to the police,” whom the presidential candidate noted appear not to have the ability nor the attitude to leave dry land.

Granger stated that piracy “will not disappear simply because the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Minister of Agriculture keep ignoring it,” while charging that piracy “has worsened” over the past 19 years of PPP/C Administration.

He issued a call to the Ministry of Home Affairs to take action by providing the police and the army with the personnel, vessels and resources “to ensure that vulnerable Guyanese citizens are protected at all costs.”

Fishermen in the Berbice area have expressed fear of going back to the seas following the recent pirate attacks which occurred off the coast of Eversham and Bush Lot villages. The Home Affairs Ministry subsequently issued a statement in which it warned that “the long arm of the law” will catch up with wanted man Kevin ‘Long Hair’ Narine, whom the authorities believe is responsible for the attacks following his prison escape last month.

Minister Persaud has also called on the security forces to up the ante against piracy.

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