Relatives of dead fisherman have questions over reported pirate attack

Relatives of Cyril Ali, one of the two persons who died following a reported pirate attack off the Suriname coast last week are questioning the story told by the three surviving crewmembers and want a police investigation to be carried out.

“They say pirate attack but according to what the survivors say and what people who see the body, it doesn’t add up,” Samantha Williams, a niece of Ali, said. “They survivors say the (pirates) kill them in a certain way but when they see the body is in a different way,” she said.

The bodies of Ali, 45, called ‘Counsel’ and the captain of the boat Nazim Shakim, 28, called `Fineman’ of Lot 17 ‘A’ Belvedere, Corentyne were recovered on the Suriname coast on Saturday. The bodies were immediately buried because they were in an advanced state of decomposition. The duo was reportedly tied up and tortured by pirates on Tuesday night and subsequently tossed into the water. The three surviving crewmen Lakeram Richard, 18, of Number 67 Village, Corentyne; Anthony Joseph Balram, 19, of Number 54 Village and Samuel Hatton, 34, of Annandale, East Coast Demerara were also tossed overboard with their hands tied but managed to free their hands and reach shore.

Nazim Shakim
Nazim Shakim

However, relatives of Ali are questioning the crewmen’s story saying that it does not add up. Ali’s brother, Lallgobin Ramdass had gone on the trip to recover the body and he told Stabroek News yesterday that based on what he observed, the story told by the crewmen is questionable. He recounted that the search party left on Friday and eventually located the bodies on the Surinamese shore. He said that he was not sure of the name of the area.  The first body located was that of the captain. “When I see this person, right away I start to cry cos I seh is my brother,” he said. However, it was Shakim’s body. Ramdass said that the body was face-down on the sand and around the head was a pool of blood-stained water. He said that the body was badly burnt “like bar-b-que” and when the body was turned over the flesh from the face was stripped off. He said that based on the severity of the burns, he believes that the men were burnt in the boat and not tossed overboard as said by the survivors. He also said that a pot spoon which one of the survivors said was used to torture them would have made different marks.

Shakim’s body was discovered close to the shoreline while Ali’s body was farther inland and was wedged between two pieces of wood. He too was face down and wearing a stomach guard used by fishermen when pulling up the seine. Ramdass said that the lower portion of his face was “eaten” away. Because both of the bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition, they decided to bury the bodies there but some photos were taken of the bodies, he said. Ramdass also said that there were no rope marks on the wrists and ankles of the dead men. “There gotta be some malice somewhere,” he said. He also questioned how the crewmen were able to free themselves if they were tied up when tossed overboard. Relatives also questioned why the pirates would leave anyone alive. Ramdass had learnt of the incident at about mid-day on Friday while relatives at Annandale received a call from one of the crewmen who contacted them on Friday evening and said that Ali had died and they needed to go and identify the body. This was when the bodies were not yet recovered. “We need an investigation, they need to question these three guys…not together,” relatives said. They said that Hatton had returned to Guyana since Thursday and he had not informed them of the incident despite him and Ali renting a house at No. 64 village. It was Balram who had called them.

    Cyril Ali
Cyril Ali

Meantime, Chairman of the Number 66 Fisheries, Pravinchandra Deodat told Stabroek News that he also has questions about the story and will be investigating further. He said that he is “not too satisfied” with the incident and the story told. “This ah really get me a bit puzzled,” he said while adding that he will be investigating further.

Vishnu Persaud, the owner of the boat said yesterday that he does not have a clue why his vessel would be a target. He said that he has been a boat owner for about ten years. “I’ve been hijacked probably about 10 times now,” he said adding that this was the first time that the boat was burnt and people died.

Hatton, one of the survivors of the attack had told Stabroek News that on Tuesday around 7.30 pm, they were on the Caroni water top and he along with the others was picking up their seine. They saw a light approaching them from behind. Moments later a boat pulled up alongside and they were ordered to go and lie face down in the cabin. “We do as they tell us, and then they tied our hands behind our back with ropes and throw a mattress over us,” he had explained.

He said there were five pirates and they asked who the owner of the boat was. When they were told that the boat belonged to Vishnu Persaud, the men claimed that he owed them money. The hijacked fishers were also told that one of them would be sent back to Guyana dead as an indication that the pirates are serious about their money.

According to Persaud, he has no enemies nor does he owe anyone. He said persons are more likely to owe him.

Hatton said one of the pirates lit the stove and placed a pot spoon on the fire. When it was heated, the man took it and started to brand them with it. He said they were tormented u
ntil about 4am on Wednesday. When the pirates noticed dawn approaching, they cut off the seine, removed the engine and transferred them to the boat that was used to hijack them.

The pirates then doused the boat with gasoline and set it on fire. As they drove off, they ordered the abducted fishers, one by one, to jump into the river. They were dispatched at different parts of the river.

The three survivors said they consumed a quantity of water, but somehow managed to swim to shore. According Hatton, he took two days to reach to a police station in Suriname. He said that he gave a statement and found his two other colleagues at the same station. Hatton returned to Guyana on Thursday morning after he was given a ride by a back-track operator.

Persaud has said he is offering a $5 million reward to anyone who can provide information on the pirates or anything relating to the attack.

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