Granger signals inquiry into massacre of Guyanese fishermen

Guyanese fishermen on the East Coast. (SN File Photo)

While reiterating a pledge to investigate the incidents of criminal violence in the previous decade, President David Granger announced yesterday that a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) is also likely to be held into the massacre of Guyanese fishermen in Suriname’s waters earlier this year.

Speaking at the handing over of the report of the CoI into the 2008 Lindo Creek killings, Granger stressed that his government would spare no effort in its quest to find the intellectual authors of the massacres, which occurred during the previous decade.   

“I commit to lifting the veil of dissimulation and deception surrounding the deaths of so many Guyanese citizens. Human safety and respect for the right to life have never been so imperiled as during the first decade of the 21st century – a period to which I have referred as ‘The Troubles,’” he said, while adding that finding the answers will reinforce regard for the sanctity of life, respect for the Constitution and law, and restore public trust in those entrusted with upholding the law.

“‘The Troubles’ will be remembered as the darkest hour of our history. It was a time of the uninvestigated assassination of a minister; of the investigation into the alleged implication of another minister in the direction of a ‘death squad;’ of the alleged implication of yet another minister in the acquisition of a computer to track the telephone communication and location of adversaries targeted for assassination. It was a time of arbitrary arrests; of disappearances and of torture of young men; of the surge in armed robberies, narcotrafficking and gun-running. During that first, deadly decade, there were 1,317 murders and 7, 865 armed robberies,” the President said before explaining that public trust will be enhanced when inquiries could be held into all incidents of criminal violence.

“Public trust will be enhanced when officers who are responsible for enforcing the law enjoy the confidence of the majority of the people and are themselves not ensnared in allegations of misconduct. Commissions of Inquiry are necessary to ascertain the facts, to recommend measures to prevent recurrences of crimes. Inquiries will ensure that those accused of crimes are brought before the courts of law. This Inquiry started the process of searching for the causes and culprits behind some of the most deadly atrocities committed during ‘The Troubles,’” Granger explained.

He later reminded reporters that he has received a request from a blood relative of former Agriculture Minister Satyadeow Sawh to re-open the investigation into his murder. The President had first made public this request in 2016, at which time he committed to having an inquiry into the events of April 22, 2006, which led to the death of the minister, his sister, brother-in-law and a security guard after their home was invaded by several masked men.

Granger noted that the deaths qualified as a massacre based on a United Nations definition, which attached the label to “any murder of four or more persons.”  He, however, observed that any CoI is likely to be hampered by the removal of evidence and witnesses over the years.

“We don’t want an inquiry based on hearsay,” he noted, while adding that such a limitation was experienced during the Lindo Creek CoI. 

He further noted that his government gives a “high priority” to the more recent murders of the Guyanese fishermen, which resulted in the declaration of a National Day of mourning, the first in decades.

More than a dozen fishermen lost their lives in the deadly attacks, which occurred between April 27th and May 3rd, 2018, off the coast of Suriname.

On April 27th, four boats carrying a total of 20 persons were attacked off the coast of Suriname.

The perpetrators, reportedly armed with guns and cutlasses, chopped and beat the fishermen before robbing them. Some of the men were ordered to jump overboard with their injuries, while others were thrown overboard with batteries strapped to their legs.

Four men who survived the attack swam until they were rescued by passing vessels. Two weeks later, another survivor was found.

Those feared dead have been identified as Tilaknauth Mohabir, 50, also known as ‘Kai’; Ganesh Beharry; Ralph Anthony Couchman, 19, also known as ‘Burnham’; Ramesh Sancharra, 48; Glenroy Jones, 21; Ramnarine Singh; Bharat Heeralall, also known as “Record,” 49; Sunil, known as Poddock; Mahesh Sarjoo, 35; Rajkumar Bissessar; Randy Burnette; and Olenski Maxwell. Three other fishermen are still to be identified.

One week later there was another attack out on the coast of the Matapica Canal, approximately eight miles from the mouth of the Paramaribo River, which claimed the life of Hardeo Beechan, called Ganesh, 32.

Beechan was the captain of the boat which was attacked.

Following the attacks, the local police had collaborated with their counterparts in Suriname, leading to several arrests.

Among those held were Premnauth Persaud, also known as ‘Sinbad,’ and Nakool Manohar, also known as ‘Fyah,’ who were jointly charged in connection with the attacks.

They were jointly charged with the murder of Mohabir and Sarjoo.

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