Ramjattan proposes arming fishermen against pirates

A section of the gathering at Hemchand Sookdeo’s funeral yesterday

Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan on Saturday met with Corentyne fishermen and proposed that they be armed with guns against pirates in the wake of a horrific attack that left one man dead and three missing.

Hemchand Sookdeo
Hemchand Sookdeo

During a meeting at the Number 66 Village Fishermen Co-op, Ramjattan recalled that some time ago, he spoke about arming fishermen and had urged them to submit a petition. However, he said, he never received any and he concluded that the fishermen did not want to be armed.

However, at Saturday’s meeting, most fishermen agreed with the Minister for them to be armed. Ramjattan recommended that one gun be given to each registered boat when heading out. Upon their return, they would lodge the firearm at the nearest police station.

“Whenever they go out to catch fish, they can be going out with a firearm allowed by the police station nearest and when you come in, hand it back to the police station,” he said. When asked by fishermen how soon all of the suggestions can be implemented, Ramjattan said it will take time but “I would like to implement it as soon as possible now.”

Ramjattan also suggested that it should be compulsory to have a radio system in place before going out to sea to fish. In case of an emergency, the fishermen can radio for help, he stated.

All the fishermen present agreed with what the Minister said and called for immediate implementation of the suggestions of being given firearms, being registered and having radio transponders.

Ramjattan had earlier said that more emphasis needs to be placed on boat registration. He said marine patrols will be on the sea and can stop boats and ask to see the registration. “We have to start a more stringent registration process of all these boats and knowing very carefully who is behind all of these boats,” he said while adding that owners should know who use their vessels. “Let’s say, he is the one that lend out he boat to these five crooks, how he didn’t know these fellows who he lending out he boats to,” he questioned.

One attendee said that fishermen and boat owners should be screened before they go out. “Who they are, where them live, who know them and if them a good person or not,” the woman said.

Meantime, Ramjattan expressed satisfaction with Commander of ‘B’ Division Ian Amsterdam and the detective who was in charge of the case involving the pirate attack on a number of fishing boats last weekend. Hemchand Sookdeo, 45, called ‘Dread,’ a father of five, of Number 55 Village, Corentyne, Berbice was found dead. The three fishermen who are missing are Boyo (only name given), Dochan Sukra known as ‘Butcher,’ 54, and Dhanpaul Ramphal, also known as ‘Sunil,’ 38, who all hail from the Upper Corentyne. Five persons have since been charged.

The minister highlighted that under the Piracy Act, once piracy is committed on Guyanese, the person (s) can be prosecuted in the country. “Any policeman that don’t take your reports in relation to allegations to piracy, I want it to be reported, because I will deem him a rogue cop,” Ramjattan declared.

“Since I have become Minister, I have taken some very strong positions on cops that are deviating from their duty. Alone under my administration, about 28 to 32 of them is known to be dismissed, because of this nonsense of not doing what they are paid to do and mis-advising the public,” he said.

However, he contended  that the majority of cops perform their duties well. The minister also disclosed that last November, known pirates were warned of what penalties they would face if found guilty. This successfully caused piracy to decrease in the area, he said. According to Ramjattan, most times the victims and the perpetrators are known to each other and he pleaded with the fishermen present to always help the police.

 

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