Beeram Persaud, owner of the fishing vessel that a five-man Corentyne crew was working on when they disappeared at sea, feels piracy can only be stopped if the captains are provided with guns.
The frustrated Persaud of Number 60 Village told this reporter in an interview that if the pirates know the fishing boats are equipped with guns they would not attempt to carry out attacks.
He pointed out that fishermen had asked for guns before and government had refused on the grounds that the fishers would “fight at sea and kill each other.”
According to him, that was a “baseless excuse that the government was making because if fishermen want to kill one another, they don’t only have to use guns, they can use knives or cutlasses or anything else.”
He said a system can be worked out for the guns to be lodged at the No 66 Fisheries and the captains can sign and uplift and return them.
Persaud’s captain Deownanan ‘Rajesh’ Ravindranauth, 43, of Crabwood Creek and crew members Naresh Persaud, 22 and his brother, Ramesh Persaud, 19, of Number 72 Village, Omesh Durhup, 36, of Skeldon and Prakash (only name known) were aboard the fishing vessel, Miss Seema which was discovered without crew on the Whim foreshore.
The men left for sea on July 10 and were expected back in 11 days. After the time passed, Persaud and the relatives became worried but they kept praying for the best. Their hopes started to fade on the 15th day when Persaud received information about the empty boat.
Ranks from the Whim station accompanied him to identify the boat and he confirmed that it was his. He immediately feared the worst and when he checked the boat he found two caps belonging to his nephews, Naresh and Ramesh.
He also discovered that the fish from the fish pen were missing, along with fish glue, a diesel drum, the seine (which was probably left in the water), groceries, pots and a stove. The engine was still intact and some fish that the men were drying in the cabin were left behind.
They subsequently learnt that a body was seen floating in the vicinity of Bush Lot. Durhup’s mother, Kamla identified the body to be her son’s. A piece of black cloth had been tied over his eyes.
Later, the body of Ramesh washed up but it was so badly decomposed that his father, Kumar felt it was the remains of his older son, Naresh. A red striped shirt that the body was clad in was pulled over the head.
Kumar later realized that the shirt belonged to Ramesh and he confirmed that it was actually his body. A post-mortem examination indicated that he died as a result of multiple injuries.
The bodies of the three other men: Ravindranauth, Naresh and Prakash have not been found and relatives have given up hope of seeing them alive again. The search for them has since been called off.
Persaud said though that the Suriname authorities have found a body which is in an advanced state of decomposition. DNA samples have been sent to Holland to be tested so that the identity can be determined.
Other fishermen had related that they spotted another body floating in the water but did not retrieve it. However, when the search team went out the body had already disappeared.
That was the first time Prakash worked on Persaud’s boat while it was the first trip for Naresh who worked as a carpenter. Ramesh started working on the boat at the age of 16 with his father.
Persaud lamented that he was “fed up” with the constant attacks. “Is time we start challenging the pirates and defend weselves because like this government don’t care about fishermen.”
Persaud said too often fishermen are being attacked and robbed at sea and lives are being lost and “we can’t do anything about it. We are helpless; we can’t fight back because we don’t have weapons to defend ourselves. The pirates have guns and they overpower us.”
According to him, “In one month nine fishermen lost their lives and yet this government is not saying or doing anything.”
He was referring to: Andrew ‘Butt’ Gopie, 41 of Annandale, East Coast Demerara whose body washed up at Mahaicony and three missing men: Vinesh ‘Dinesh’ Drunarine, 24, of Uitvlugt, West Coast Demerara, Raymond Gomes, 37, and Chandrapaul Jallim, 19, both of Recht-door-Zee, West Bank Demerara.
The men were attacked by pirates and tossed overboard and only the captain of the boat, Feroze Hack survived the ordeal to tell the tale of what transpired. He made it safely to shore after swimming for a while and keeping himself afloat.
Persaud emphasized that since the incident “the president or no minister didn’t come and sympathize or see what help they can offer the people.”
He was angry too that a regional official took “a bottle coffee and two box biscuit” to the home of Ramesh’s relatives.
He lashed out that, “We don’t need their coffee and biscuit… We need them to help us to put an end to this piracy.”
Relatives were hurt too that the president found the time to visit the families of the three accident victims at Philippi but could not meet with them.
Persaud said too that “the money that the government is investing to build the Marriot Hotel for people to come and sport, they coulda invest some of that to develop the fish industry. Plus look how much money they spending on the Rodney inquiry.”
Further, he stressed, “Fishermen risking their lives and doing an honest job, yet when anything happen at sea the coastguards don’t go out. They would just sit at the fisheries [at No 66 Village] and take statements.”
The distraught man said that in Suriname fishermen are treated with respect. If a fisherman disappears at sea after a piracy attack, that country would “send out at least three helicopters to help search.” The coastguards too would be combing the waters.
Further, if suspected pirates are caught here, they are only held for the 72-hour incarceration period. If they are released because of a lack of evidence, they go back and terrorize the fishermen more. In the case of Suriname, suspects can be locked up for one month.
Persaud has been in the fishing business for over 20 years and has been attacked countless times but this one was the worst for him.
“Almost every year pirates does attack my boats about two or three times,” he told this newspaper. He is sure that fishermen are involved in piracy because “an ordinary man wouldn’t know the water so well…”
He said sadly: “I prefer to lose my boat than my workers’ lives. You could work and build back a boat but you can’t get back life. This is really hard to deal with, especially since I lost my two nephews as well.”
Beeram had suffered gunshot injuries about two years ago when bandits entered his home and terrorized and robbed him and his family.