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Surinamese police ignores piracy attacks report against Guyanese—Jagdeo; Suriname authorities to monitor fishermen movements

A survivor of the April 27, 2018 pirate attack off the coast of Suriname speaks to Opposition Leader, Bharrat Jagdeo and PPP Executive Committee Member, Anil Nandlall at a meeting in Suriname at the weekend. (photo by Ivan Cairo)

Even as Guyana’s Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan on Wednesday disclosed that Suriname has moved to set up check-points to monitor the movement of Guyanese fishermen, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said Surinamese police often disregard reports of piracy because the victims are Guyanese.

Just back from Suriname, accompanied by a team of senior police officers who gathered information about the April 27, 2018 attack on 20 Guyanese fishermen, the Public Security Minister said authorities in that former Dutch colony have decided to immediately regulate the fisheries sector which is largely dominated by Guyanese.

Ramjattan said the monitoring system would be aimed at recording the boats that went out at sea, from where they left and the identities of the fishers.

Following the gruesome murder of at least 15 fishermen, Surinamese authorities had publicly appealed for persons to go to the police there with identification cards or passports if they believed their relatives and family members are victims.

For his part, Jagdeo said the recent high profile piracy attacks in Suriname waters against Guyanese fishermen are not isolated cases since it obtains frequently but reports to the Surinamese Police are often times disregarded because the victims (or persons making the report) are Guyanese.

Jagdeo, who was also in Suriname last weekend where he met with mainly Guyanese fisher-folk including a number of piracy survivors, was adamant Public Security Minister, Khemraj Ramjattan, is in fact being disingenuous in his praises of the Surinamese forces and their reaction to Guyanese plight.

According to Jagdeo, based on the reports of Guyanese living in Suriname, the recent acts of piracy are nothing new but the Surinamese authorities disregard reports since the matters involve Guyanese.

According to Jagdeo, the Peoples Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) would on Friday push for a motion to be heard in Parliament in order to find out what the Guyana Government is doing to protect its citizens in the neighbouring country. “We would like to find out what he (Minister of Public Security) is doing with the Surinamese authority,” since numerous Guyanese reported openly during the meetings, “there have been several cases when they have gone to report cases of hijacking, no attention is being paid to them…because they are Guyanese, it seems that the
Surinamese Police at some of the Police Stations don’t heed their concern.”

The former president was adamant 95 per cent of the Surinamese fishing industry, including boat owners, operators and fish processors are in fact Guyanese and “they are there legally, they pay taxes and they should expect fair representation from the authorities there.”

According to the PPP/C General Secretary and Opposition Leader, “we want to know what is being done on both sides…not just the backslapping or coming to say we cooperating fully, we want to be assured the security forces of the two countries are collaborating at the highest level.”

The Opposition Leader accused Ramjattan and government of a ‘lackadaisical’ and routine response to a ‘terrorist’ act committed against Guyanese in neighbouring Suriname.

Further chiding Minister of Public Security as disingenuous, Jagdeo told members of the media it was in fact private helicopters, paid for by private parties that undertook the aerial searches for the missing fishermen—now presumed dead—victims of recent pirate attacks off the Surinamese coast and not the Surinamese authorities.
“A lot of what he (Ramjattan) praised the Surinamese for did not take place,” Jagdeo said.

He told reporters many relatives of the victims and missing fishermen complained bitterly over being rebuffed by the Guyana Government as they seek to get information. He said it was Member of Parliament, Nigel Dharamlall, who during an initial meeting with relatives that had to contact Minister of Citizenship, Winston Felix in order to expedite travel documents for the families to travel to neighbouring Suriname.

Former President Jagdeo was adamant, the matter of the piracy attack—despite being labeled a ‘massacre’ by Head of State, David Granger—is not being taken seriously and pointed to the fact that Minister Ramjattan took eight days to inform the Surinamese authority that the Guyanese counterparts will be cooperating fully.

That, Jagdeo said, was something that could have been done with a phone call or using the internet the very next day.

He told members of the local media corps, his visit to neighbouring Suriname, to meet with the relatives of the victims was in part meant to “raise the level of awareness in our government and to push them in a manner to act in a manner befitting (of the tragedy).”