President declares national day of mourning
GEORGETOWN – 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 and May 3.
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 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.
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.
In the aftermath of the attack, the government declared moves to heighten counter-piracy efforts.
Minister of State, Joseph Harmon said that government will be intensifying its counter-piracy activities in Guyana and has 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.
The Surinamese authorities have also agreed to the implementation of a number of regulatory measures aimed at ensuring the safety of fisher folks and their vessels.
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 men.
Manohar appeared at the Springlands Magistrate’s Court to answer to charges of piracy on the high seas 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’.
Another man – 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 with the murder of two fishermen.
Persaud, 43, the third accused, was jointly charged with Nakool Manohar, also known as “Fyah”, 39, 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”, earlier this month 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 thattack.
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 a beach 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. (Reuters)