Authorities in Suriname have been enlisted in efforts to locate five missing Berbice fishermen.
A search party so far has not had any success, but the families of the missing men are holding on to the hope that they will see their loved ones again.
Suriname officials, according to Chairman of the Upper Corentyne Fishermen’s Co-op Society Indar Rampersaud, have agreed to help in the search. He could not say to what extent, but noted that representatives were in Suriname meeting with officials.
Still missing are brothers Khemraj and Narine Dhanpat, known as ‘Rajan’ and ‘Shrimp,’ respectively, both of Number 64 Village, Corentyne; Ramnarine Oditnarine, called ‘Rodney,’ of Number 64 Village; Clifford Singh, called ‘Eggan’ of Number 62 Village; and Sumesh Matin, called ‘Canje,’ of Number 64 Village.
The Ministry of Agriculture said in its first statement on the incident yesterday that all the relevant agencies were alerted to the situation. According to the Ministry, its Fisheries Department has been informed by Rampersaud that five fishermen from the fishing vessel ‘Reshma’ were missing after departing on a fishing exercise on August 6.
Immediately, the statement said, the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force and Ministry of Foreign Affairs were informed of the report and their assistance sought in searching for the fisher folks and gathering of any information from Narine Dhanpat Clifford Singh Khemraj Dhanpattheir counterparts in neighbouring Suriname in relation to the missing fishermen.
The Ministry of Agriculture has also contacted the Fisheries Department of Suriname seeking their assistance with information on the whereabouts of the fishermen. The Fisheries Department is also in contact with the owner of the vessel, Gajadar Bishnauth, and Rampersaud.
The statement said that “a search and rescue team” departed the Upper Corentyne Fishermen Co-op Society at No. 66 Village, Corentyne at approximately 09:00 hours yesterday morning in search of the missing fishermen. “The situation is continually being monitored by the Ministry which remains in contact with the relevant law enforcement agencies,” it added.
Rampersaud also told this newspaper that when he first heard of the disappearance of the men he was in shock. He said that the appearance of the vessel minus the engine, fishing gear, foodstuff and other items it is supposed to have is very strange.
‘Keeping the faith’
Meanwhile, relatives of quintet along with others residing in the same area are keeping their fingers crossed that the men would be found alive.
Speaking to Stabroek News by telephone, Goomattie Bisnauth, who is the sister of the two brothers and relative to Matin and Oditnarine, said that they are hearing “all sort a story.”
She recalled that when she first got the news that her relatives were missing, she passed out. “Meh din thinking that something bad happened to them,” she said.
Almost in tears, she added that “people saying how they got to dead… And they turning up here at the house giving their sympathy.”
She said that in spite of what is being said, she is keeping the faith. Goomattie informed this newspaper that Narine has two children; his brother Khemraj has four; Matin has two and Singh one. She described Oditnarine as a bachelor.
The worried woman said that the men’s wives are taking their disappearance very hard. She said that preparations were being made to take one of them to the hospital after she “get black out.”
She noted that in the past, the group had fallen victim to pirates. She explained that their engines and catch were taken away and they were beaten but “dem ah wuk back because dem gat chirren to maintain.”
According to Goomattie, the five men who are “born fishermen” kept going back to sea because the area has no jobs. “They just kept the faith and kept going right back,” she stressed.
“We just sitting and waiting to get good news. What more we gon do?… We just keeping we fingers cross right now,” she added.
Foul play was suspected after the boat was discovered empty in Suriname on Saturday, 17 days after the quintet set sail.
The boat owner, Gajadar Bishnauth, has recounted to Stabroek News that after ten days elapsed and the men did not return, he became worried and started searching for them.
He said that he received a call informing him that a boat was found in Suriname and he quickly journeyed to that country and identified the vessel as his.
Bishnauth returned to Guyana the same day with the boat and later made a report to the police.
He expressed the view that his crew was attacked by pirates as there is no other explanation for their disappearance, since the boat was recovered. He pointed out that the men have families and they would not abandon them without a word.