The Alliance For Change (AFC) has expressed “grave concern” that the government “still cannot competently protect its fishermen from pirates on the high seas.”
The AFC said in a press release Tuesday that the police and the GDF “have been unable to manage the scourge of piracy and murder on the high seas since they do not possess adequate resources to identify the culprits and conduct continuous patrols.”
The party noted that the fishing industry employs thousands directly and indirectly and brings in billions of dollars to the country.
However, the AFC said, the government “is unable to find the resources to set up the Police Air Unit and to enhance the Coast Guard and GDF Air Corps Search and Rescue capabilities at sea.”
“Yet it (gov’t) can find $1 billion for executive travel for their leadership to travel all over the world since Jagdeo’s presidency and it can legislate for a presidential pension package approximating $3 million per month,” the party observed.
Meanwhile, the AFC disclosed that one of the measures it would pursue would be to establish a Fisheries Surveillance and Enforcement Coordinating Committee with suitable representatives from the Department of Fisheries, the Coast Guard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Customs and Excise Department and Marine Police, and most importantly the genuine representatives of the fishermen.
The AFC would also establish a Police Air Unit with support from the GDF and put at the disposal of that unit a search and rescue aircraft that will work to offer greater surveillance of the fishermen at work on the high seas.
Moreover, the party said all fishing boats should be equipped with GPS transponders and high power radios which they would pay for over a period of time; and all mercy calls with messages of a pirate attack would be responded to with the full force of the law.
On the broader question of further developing the fishing industry, the AFC proposes to conduct an equipment audit of every fish complex to offer the right incentives to investors to re-energise the industry such as investments in a fish meal plant, and more cold storage and ice-making capacity.
The party suggested too that suitable areas be allocated for aqua-cultural activities and arrangements made for that land to be held in freehold or in 99-year transferable leases.
Moreover, the AFC sees the need for the construction of National Aquaculture Research Stations, the release stated.
The AFC said further that it would engage the fishermen in updating “the current inadequate policies on the industry and will complete a comprehensive national policy for the stewardship of the ocean…,” including a clear policy on search and rescue and coastal surveillance by the law enforcement authorities.
The AFC said also that it will “provide access to low interest capital through the establishment of a State Development Bank which will support fishermen, and additionally our rice farmers, millers, as well as livestock farmers.”
“Come October,” the AFC remarked, “the Minister of Agriculture will again celebrate the critical role fishermen play in our economy and national heritage especially in our own local boat building industry, yet the PPP continues to fail fishermen.”
The AFC cited the recent incident where fishermen have gone missing and other similar cases, besides fishermen being murdered and losing millions of dollars in equipment to pirates.
The party further pointed out that the fishing industry remains a vital sector for creating new jobs and a source of increased export earnings.
Against that background, the AFC declared that “it is extremely difficult for anyone to comprehend why the PPP continues to leave Guyanese fishermen to the mercy of brazen pirates on the high seas with no tangible solution on the horizon.”