GDF concerned at transfer of ‘pirates’ to Suriname

The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) last evening expressed concern that suspected pirates found in this country’s waters were on Tuesday handed over to Surinamese authorities by Berbice fishermen.

On Tuesday, the Berbice fishers told Stabroek News that they had taken this course of action as they were fed up at the inaction of the authorities to reports of piracy and the continuing attacks they have been forced to endure.

The handing over of the suspects to Suriname would be seen as a major embarrassment for Georgetown particularly considering the maritime contentions between the two Caricom neighbours.
In a press release following a report in yesterday’s Stabroek News on the steps taken by the Berbice fishermen, the GDF said it is “concerned about reports alleging the inaction by the Coast Guard led to four persons held by some fishermen being handed over to Surinamese authorities following acts of robberies at sea (Tuesday).”

It said that following a report by an official of the No 66 Fisheries Cooperative at around noon on Tuesday about a robbery at sea, the Coast Guard set sail from New Amsterdam to respond to the report.

The GDF said that a subsequent call was received from the Fisheries Cooperative Official around 1500 hours on Tuesday where he indicated they had located the raiding vessel in the Eversham Village area and there had been an exchange of gunfire.  The GDF release said that the official was advised that the Coast Guard had already deployed and was heading to the area.

“At around 1545 a call was received from a Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries department official who requested the Coast Guard and Police presence at the No 66 Village Fisheries Coopera-tive location so that the arrested persons could be taken in to custody.  Another Coast Guard team was deployed, this time to the No 66 Village Fisheries Cooperative location.

“While at that location the commander was informed that the vessel and crew were already handed over to the Surinamese authorities.  The GDF is concerned that alleged perpetrators of acts of piracy in Guyana’s waters were handed over to Surinamese authorities instead of Guyanese authorities for investigation and prosecution”, the GDF declared.

Meanwhile, Stabroek News was yesterday told that the suspected  pirates who were apprehended in the vicinity of Eversham by the Berbice Anti-Piracy Commit-tee (BAPC) and turned over to Suriname authorities would face charges in that country.

The pirates were in the process of robbing a fishing boat when members of the BAPC opened fire and overpowered and arrested them.

President of the BAPC and chairman of the No 66 Fisheries, Pravinchandra Deodat said the pirates fired a shot at them but when they were cornered they apparently threw the gun overboard.

The Suriname lawmen are also interrogating the pirates who are said to be fishermen from the No 43 Village, Corentyne  area, in connection with the recent murder of two fishers and for other piracy attacks.

The pirates had earlier used a gun and cutlasses to rob two fishing vessels in Suriname waters of fish, fish glue, groceries and other articles after beating the captains and crew members. The vessels belong to fishermen from the No 66 Fisheries

They took possession of one of the boats and held the fishermen hostage as they continued to rob other boats. A pirate was operating their boat and was trying to escape but members of the BAPC captured him as well.

Yesterday, owners of the boats that were robbed on Tuesday and the owner of the boat from which the men perished after they were reportedly thrown overboard, travelled to the neighbouring country to assist with investigations.

Deodat may also be summoned to go Suriname to give statements.

The pirates had removed their masks and Deodat said that at first it was difficult to tell who the fishermen were from the pirates. As they got closer they asked the fishermen to step aside and they used pieces of rope to tie up the pirates until the police from Suriname arrived.

Deodat said that after learning about the attack from one of the owners of the hijacked boat around 10:30 am on Tuesday, he immediately contacted the local coastguards.

The officers told them that they would need “backup from the police” and called for the commander and deputy commander of ‘B’ Division and was told that they were both out of office. He was given a number for the crime chief but did not get through to him.

He and the other members then decided to go out on the water and he called the coastguard again to inform them. He later called again to let them know that they had closed in on the pirates and that they had opened fire on them.

He provided their location and the officers promised to join them but after they failed to show up he tried their number again but did not get through. He then called the police in Suriname and they responded.

In recent years pirates have mercilessly harried Corentyne fishermen, killed a number of them and robbed hundreds.

Several weeks ago it was alleged that two fishermen died after being thrown overboard by pirates.

The government has been repeatedly urged by fishermen to take stronger measures to halt piracy. Thus far the measures implemented have not worked. Fishermen have also called for intensified patrols by the local coast guard.

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