Fifth pirate attack survivor found, missing fisher’s body identified

-two arrests made in Suriname, Guyana

A fisherman who was dumped overboard with injuries was miraculously found alive yesterday by his fellow fisher folk, who were a part of the search underway for the missing men in the recent horrific piracy attack.

“Sherwin”, only name given, may have survived one of the deadliest attacks in  Suriname waters, as yesterday he was discovered with injuries about his body at Braamspunt, which is located west of Commewijne District, Suriname. He was taken to the local hospital, where he was treated for his injuries.

It was related to Stabroek News that Sherwin informed the search party that close to where he had been located, he heard “crying sounds”. As a result, relatives of the missing men were last evening heading back out to the area to make a second search, in hopes of finding another survivor. Two helicopters were added to the search yesterday.

While Sherwin’s return is to be celebrated, yesterday also brought news that one of the three bodies sighted by a pilot during the search efforts, was that of Danesh Persaud, also known as “Vicky”, 26, one of the captains of the boats that were attacked by pirates last Friday.

Last Friday evening, five pirates attacked four boats carrying a total of 20 persons just off the Suriname Coast. It was reported that each boat was occupied by five persons, comprising the captain and four fishermen.

The pirates, reportedly armed with cutlasses and guns, chopped and beat the fishermen before robbing them. It had been reported that some of the men were ordered to jump overboard with their injuries, while others were thrown overboard with batteries strapped to their legs.

However, four men who survived the attack, swam until they were rescued by passing vessels. One of the survivors has been identified as Darmandew Persaud.

On Wednesday, three bodies were spotted on various mudflats in the Suriname waters. One body was seen on a mudflat at Wia Wia Bank, while another was found at a river side in Weg Naar Zee. The location for the third is still unknown to this newspaper.

Persaud’s cousin, Sherry Persaud, yesterday told Stabroek News, that her father, brother and Danesh’s brother, who were a part of the search, positively identified the recovered body as being that of Danesh Persaud.

According to the woman, the family is experiencing some difficulties with the authorities in Suriname. She noted that they are hoping to bring the body to Guyana, since all of their relatives reside at this end, including Persaud’s wife and children.

“Them say they gone bring it to one point and we got to bring it from there, but it expensive and we can’t afford that, we don’t have all that money,” she stated.

The family is pleading with the authorities in Guyana to intervene and make representation for them, or assist with transporting the man’s body over here, so that his final rites can be properly carried out among his loved ones.

Yesterday’s developments brings the number of men missing down to 12.

The missing men so far identified are; Tilaknauth Mohabir, 50, also known as ‘Kai’; Ganesh Beharry, Ralph Anthony Couchman, 19, also known as ‘Burnham’; Ramesh Sancharra, 48; Glenroy Jones, 21; Randy Burnette; Ramnarine Singh; Bharat Heeralall also known as “Record”, 49; Bobby Ibrahim, Sunil known as Poddock, Mahesh Sarjoo, 35 and Rajkumar Bissessar.

While Danesh Persaud, Couchman and Burnette hail from Number Two Village, East Canje, Berbice, and Heeralall from Annandale, East Coast Demerara, many of the missing fishermen are said to be Guyanese who have been living in Paramaribo, Suriname for a number of years now.

A boat owner yesterday told this newspaper that Sancharra was a captain for one of the boats that was attacked. A relative yesterday said that they received information that on Sancharra’s boat, two men survived while the other three were thrown overboard with batteries strapped to their legs.

The relative said, “One of the two survivors (from that boat) went two times overboard but he could still balance until the men gone and the other one pull him out”. The woman added, “They said because the place did getting bright so they (pirates) leave them and go away, but they send the one boy who was left on the boat in the cabin so he couldn’t see which direction they headed for”.

Also, the woman said she received this information from one of the survivors, she added, “One a them get chop in them head”.

Two in custody

Two men, a Berbice boat owner and a Suriname fisherman, were yesterday taken into custody by their local authorities.

Guyana’s ‘B’ Division investigators, working on information received from Suriname police, placed a boat owner of Number 43 Village, Corentyne under arrest. The man was arrested at the Number 43 Village, Corentyne fishing wharf.

A police source told Stabroek News that the police’s theory is that the attack was revenge for the murder of one of the boat owner’s relatives in Suriname.

According to information gathered, the boat owner’s brother, a boat owner himself who resided in Suriname, was shot on March 29, at his residence in a drive-by shooting.

Investigators believe that the Guyanese man is taking revenge for his brother’s murder, as such they placed him under arrest. The man was taken yesterday afternoon to the New Amsterdam Police Station, where he is reportedly being held for questioning. Additionally, Stabroek News was told that he has since retained an attorney.

According to sources in Suriname, investigators there also placed a fisherman under arrest yesterday morning in connection with the attack after receiving information from other fishermen.

Stabroek News was told that the accused was handed over to the authorities by fellow fishermen at a wharf yesterday morning. As he was being placed into custody, the man reportedly attempted to conceal his identity, soliciting shouts from fisher folks present, who called for him to show his face.

A source in Suriname had told Stabroek News that the two arrested were identified by a survivor, and investigators were supposedly told of a possible revenge plot.

Stabroek News was previously told that the survivor had identified a certain boat with a certain colour to Suriname’s investigators. However, divulging more information last evening, the source said that the boat was marked with ‘SR’ and a number.

According to local fishermen, only Guyana’s boats are marked under ‘SR’. The fisherman said, “Even if Guyanese deh over deh and them register over here, as long it got SR is Guyana boat”.

Additionally, the source said that they are hunting more fishermen who have been identified in Suriname, while investigators in Guyana, ‘B’ Division are doing the same.

One of the main suspects who police are looking for was identified as “Crack head”, originally from Rosignol, West Coast Berbice, Guyana, but who has reportedly been living in Paramaribo, Suriname.

Meanwhile, relatives of the man who was shot dead on March 29 in Suriname, told this newspaper that the theory of a revenge plot is far from the truth, noting that they believe someone is trying to set them up.

Yesterday, the deceased man’s son, who resides in Suriname, refuted claims of his family plotting  revenge against the fishermen.

“This is not true, my father died in a drive-by shooting on Good Friday. They are saying that we are using it as a revenge but we are not, we don’t have nothing to do with this,” he stated.

The boat owner’s relatives in Guyana have also claimed that he has no knowledge of what transpired. A close relative yesterday, while noting that they were not ready to speak with the media, said that the man was home when the attack was carried out. Additionally, the relative claimed that the police have been after the boat owner for quite some time, explaining that he would usually be arrested for any crimes being committed on the sea. The person noted that although they would arrest him and take him in for questioning, they have never been able to charge him.

Attacks common

A fisherman in Suriname, who asked to remain anonymous, told Stabroek News yesterday that such events are common in the Suriname waters, however, the matters are hardly reported on as persons remain in the dark about what transpires out at sea.

According to the man, on last Old Year’s Day, a boat was attacked and its captain and three fishermen were beaten and thrown overboard. The man related that to his knowledge, those persons are still missing, since the boat was found abandoned.

He also recounted that about two to three weeks ago, a captain of a boat was shot in the face and the boat carrying the fishermen was sunk.

“Them man made it by floating on the ice box then another boat see them and pick them up,” he related.

The man, speaking with Stabroek News via telephone yesterday, opined that the authorities in Suriname need to pay more attention to water crimes, stating, “Nothing happens about those matters, people don’t care about us, we come out at sea and we have to fight, we don’t know what we gone meet up”.

Meanwhile, a second attack in the Suriname waters occurred late Wednesday evening.

According to sources, in that occurrence, the boat captain was reportedly beaten, chopped and shot before the pirates tossed his body overboard. He was identified to this newspaper as Beechan Hardeo, 32.

Call for solidarity between governments

The local fishermen in Guyana are calling on the government of Guyana and the government of Suriname to come together and work to protect fishermen.

Indar Rampersaud, 52, Acting Vice Chairman of the Number 66 Fishing Co-op said that this attack should show both governments that it is time they come together to protect the fishermen. He explained that where the attacks were carried out is a far distance away from where Guyana’s fishermen would usually ply their trade.

However, he explained that once fishermen ply their trade in the Suriname waters, everything is left up to the authorities over there, adding that the authorities need to respond to calls from fisher folk immediately.

“We getting the same issue in Guyana, but we cannot blame our police and our coast guards because from the time you left this creek here, you enter Suriname water, so they need to come together now and come up with something, how it will work out,” he advised.

Another fisherman known as Tallboy (only name given), said since being in the fishing industry, his boat has been hijacked some twenty two times. “Me get chop head, me get bruk ribs, me get everything, but me na know what go protect we,” he stated.

Several fishermen at the Number 66 Fishing Wharf were seen yesterday preparing to head out to sea. The men said that despite the situation and the threat that is out at sea, they still have to head out to work, because considering the non-existent job opportunities, they cannot abandon their trade since they have families to provide for.

Meanwhile, Chairman of Region Six, David Armogan, yesterday expressed his sadness about the situation at the region’s statutory meeting. Noting that he was speaking on behalf of the entire council, Armogan said, “I think we need to enable these fishermen to have radios and then we also need to give them firearms”.

He added, “… because when they go out there their lives are at danger and their families are at risk and I think the government has to relook the policy on how we deal with fishermen and their safety. They must be able to provide some level of safety to fishermen because they are at the mercy of these pirates who have guns and so on”.

Additionally, Armogan called on the government to “see what can be given to the families of these fisher folk who have lost their lives”.

He stressed that this is the time for the countries to come together and support each other.

Last night, Suriname’s reported that Surinamese President Desi Bouterse, at a press conference after returning from Brazil yesterday, said his “government is doing everything it can to find out what is going on to inform society.”

Bouterse reportedly stated that he while he was in Brazil, he had been in contact with his ministers Stuart Faithful of Justice and Police, and Ronni Benschop, of Defence, on the progress of the investigation.

“Contacts were also made with French Guiana and Guyana to act jointly against the pirates. This issue has also been discussed with Brazil,” the article stated.

According to the report, Bouterse said that the government has taken several steps, and noted that the issue will be tackled structurally.

Further, the Surinamese news agency reported that the Federation of Surinamese Farmers (FSA) has taken the initiative to organize a collection campaign to support the families and relatives of the missing fishermen.

A bank account has been opened where donations can be deposited. Deposits can be made in SRD at the Surinamese Post Savings Bank on the account number 167163501, under the heading ‘Victimation aid fishers’ families’.

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