The Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the deaths of 15 fishermen during piracy attacks off the coast of Suriname in 2018 has been completed and the report was today handed over to the Minister of State, Mrs. Dawn Hastings- Williams.
On April 27 and 28, 2018, pirates attacked several fishing boats with Guyanese fishermen. Four fishing vessels and 20 fishermen were severely beaten and chopped. Only five of the victims survived after jumping overboard.
Following the attack, President David Granger ordered a COI and Dr. Rishee Thakur was appointed as the head person.
Dr. Rishee Thakur was mandated by the President to investigate, determine and make findings of fact on all matters in relation to the piracy attacks, determine the number and the identities of the persons killed off of the Atlantic Coast of the Republic of Suriname, on or about April 28, 2018, determine the identities of the perpetrators and motives behind such violations, with a view of ensuring that those responsible are held accountable.
Minister Dawn-Hastings said the Head of the COI was also tasked with recommending actions to be taken against all persons and/or organizations that are deemed responsible for the deaths, determine the role of the State agencies of Guyana in the security of fishermen in the area and report on a plan of action to guide initiatives to be undertaken both at sea and onshore to prevent and counter piracy and related activities, by addressing the root causes of this phenomenon.
“I know that many of us have waited anxiously for this day, and I am glad that we are finally concluding this exercise, so that we can move forward, address the important issues and tasks that are required, bring an end to this scourge that has plagued mainly Region Six and bring closure to a very tragic incident,” she said.
According to the Minister, she will read the report and then pass it on to Cabinet members for discussion.
Meanwhile, Dr. Thakur in his remarks, said during the inquiry it was determined by extended findings that the piracy was organised, planned, systemic and executed open confrontation that has its origins in a turf war over fishing grounds.
“We were able to establish that in no uncertain terms,” he said.
Dr. Thakur also noted that during the inquiry, it was discovered that while there were 350 cabin cruisers or fishing vessels in the Corentyne, there is not a single registered crew or trained and licensed captain.
Among the recommendations therefore are for the Chief Co-op Officer to address the congestion and excessive number of fishing boats and the traffic in that area since it is seen as a source of tension among fishermen; an institution of fishing standards in the area with training and licensing of captains and fishing crews; a vessel monitoring system in accordance with the Fisheries Act and the transformation of the Inter-Agency Piracy Task Force into a permanent statutory body.
He noted that the Commission divided the recommendations into two categories: what can and should be done immediately without prohibitive costs and those that can be done through long term planning and design.