Monday is National Day of Mourning

DPI, Guyana, Saturday, June 23, 2018

President David Granger has proclaimed Monday as a national day of mourning for the victims of the massacre of Guyanese fishermen off the Coast of Suriname between April 27, 2018, and May 3 ,2018.

The proclamation which is in keeping with Article 99 (1) of the constitution of Guyana, calls on “all authorities, Boards, Commissions, Corporations, Public Agencies, Ministries and citizens to fly the National Flag of Guyana at half-staff to demonstrate solidarity with the families of those killed in these grisly and gruesome acts and to accord due homage, respect and reverence to the memory of the victims.”

The piracy attack which took place on April 27, left sixteen (16) fishermen missing and feared dead. According to survivors, they were assaulted with machetes and forced to jump into the sea by the assailants who are suspected to be of Guyanese heritage. Some of the survivors also recounted that several victims had batteries tied to their legs.

President David Granger, speaking on the sidelines of the opening ceremony for Caribbean Financial Action Task Force’s (CFATF) workshop for judges and prosecutors had described the attack, as a grave one.

“We are deeply grieved by the tragedy. Clearly, some Guyanese have been victims and we are in touch with the Surinamese government, also the Surinamese police authorities. Our police in the East Berbice, Corentyne division are in touch with their families and we plan to observe formal mourning. It is a great massacre, a great tragedy,” the president said.

In addition, The Head of State had extended sympathy to the bereaved families and said the recent attack is a setback to successes achieved in the fight against piracy over the past three years.

Following the attack, Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan and a team of security personnel visited the neighbouring country and met with relatives of the deceased. The Minister said the visit was timely and yielded important information.

“The very first morning of our arrival I met with about 25 relatives of the victims and we had a meeting at the Guyana Embassy in Paramaribo, myself along with Ambassador George. A number of issues were raised and the ways in which we could assist were also discussed.” Minister Ramjattan added, “we then had a meeting on Monday morning with the Minister of Justice, Minister of Defence, Minister of Agriculture, the Police Commissioner and the chief detective who was the person in charge of the investigations. From that meeting, we received a better understanding as to how far the investigations had gone,” Ramjattan explained.

According to The Minister of Public Security a formal request was made to the Surinamese government, to have an estimated seven persons who may have information on the recent piracy attacks on Guyanese fishermen, provide same to the local police.

“Recently, a team of Surinamese detectives working on the case indicated that they are going to help us in relation to getting more evidence because we had asked them for more evidence in relation to people who we suspected in Guyana,” the Minister said during a media briefing.

Meanwhile, in a May 11 press release emanating from the Ministry of the Presidency, the government declared moves to heighten counter-piracy efforts – in light of attack in Surinamese waters

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said that government will be intensifying its counter-piracy activities in Guyana, in light of the recent deadly piracy attack, which occurred in Surinamese waters. The Minister also assured local fisherfolk of the government’s commitment to ensuring that they continue to ply their trade and earn their livelihood in an environment of safety and security.

Minister Harmon explained that when the Administration took Office in 2015, piracy attacks were a regular occurrence. However, coordinated efforts by the Government resulted in a significant reduction in the number of attacks, but added that it is clear that a significant threat remains as the crime had become entrenched over time and ensuring safety remains a top priority for the administration.

“This is a result of a consistent approach by the Government, the first thing we did was activate the Anti-Piracy Task Force, which met at least once per month to review matters of this nature…The Minister of Public Security and several Ministers also engaged the local fisherfolk with respect to the protection of their vessels when they are out at sea…This combined effort on the part of the State, in our view, forced those who had that criminal intent to have to operate outside of the Guyana waters, but certainly this is something that we have to continue to look at because it seems as if this kind of criminal intent ran very deep and it is something which the security forces will have to pay greater attention to as we move forward,” the Minister of State said.

The Surinamese authorities also agreed to the implementation of a number of regulatory measures aimed at ensuring the safety of fisher folks and their vessels. Minister Harmon added that “the collaboration between the security forces of Guyana and Suriname will continue until the perpetrators of these dastardly acts are arrested and placed before the courts.”

He also committed to a recapitalization of Guyana Coast Guard and deployment of additional resources,

Nakool Manohar called “Fyah”, 39, the alleged mastermind of the massacre of Guyanese fishermen in Suriname, was on charged on May 30, with the murder of one of the dead men.

Manohar appeared at the Springlands Magistrate’s Court before Magistrate Rabindranauth Singh to answer to charges of piracy on the high seas for which he was previously remanded. However, he was instead slapped with the murder charge.

The charge stated that between April 26th and May 3rd, while in Guyana’s territorial waters, he murdered Tilacknauth Mohabir called ‘Caiman’. He was remanded to prison until June 13th when he was expected to make his next appearance.

On June 13th Premnauth Persaud, also known as ‘Sinbad,’ who is said to be the ringleader of the April 27 piracy attack off of Suriname, was jointly charged y with the murder of two fishermen.

Persaud, 43, the third accused, was jointly charged with Nakool Manohar, also known as “Fyah”, 39, of Lot 1, Number 43 Village, Corentyne, at the Springlands Magistrate’s Court, with the murders of Tilaknauth Mohabir, also known as “Kai” or “Kaiman,” and Mahesh Sarjoo. The charge read that the two men, between April 27 and May 3, murdered Mohabir and Sarjoo during the course of a robbery in Corentyne waters.

The second accused Alexander DenHart, called “Shame Face”, of #79 Village, Corentyne, Berbice appeared before Acting Chief Magistrate, Sherdel Isaacs-Marcus in early June and was not required to answer to the charge.

The bodies of Tilacknauth Mohabir and Mahesh Sarjoo were the only two that were positively identified by relatives in Suriname after the deadly piracy attack on 27th April last on four boats with 20 men. One other body that was found in Surinamese waters is still to be identified via DNA testing while the body of Gowkaran Outar called Gavin was found on the #63 Beach on May 10th and was positively identified by a tattoo on his chest by relatives.

Five persons survived the ordeal while 11 are still missing and feared dead. Missing are: Ramesh Sanchar, 50; Glenroy Jones, 20; Tilaknauth Mohabir, 50; Ralph Anthony Couchman,19; Rajkumar Bissessar; Ganesh Beharry; Bobby Ibrahim; Sunil also known as “Podock”; Ramnarine Singh; Bharat Heralall; Randy Burnette; and Olenski Maxwell.

The national day of mourning is not a public holiday.

By: Kidackie Amsterdam.

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