Georgetown, Guyana – (February 21, 2020) Minister of State, Mrs. Dawn Hastings-Williams, this afternoon, received the final Report of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) into the 2018 Piracy attacks and the death of Guyanese fishermen off the Coast of Suriname.
The CoI was commissioned by President David Granger in June 2019. He had described the attack on the fishermen as a “massacre” and declared June 25, 2018 a national day of mourning in their honour.
In her remarks, Minister Hastings-Williams said that the Commission was constituted to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the piracy attacks, which included violent criminal acts, hijacking of Guyanese-owned fishing vessels and the resultant deaths of Guyanese nationals.
She noted that the Head of the COI, 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.
He was also tasked with recommending actions to be taken against all persons and/or organizations that are deemed responsible for the deaths of those persons based on the determination of the above; 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 No. 6 and bring closure to a very tragic incident,” she said.
She reminded that the President in his address at the opening ceremony for the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) workshop for judges and prosecutors, in May of 2018 said “we are deeply grieved by the tragedy that occurred at sea, involving some of our citizens. It is a great massacre, a great tragedy”.
The Minister of State said the Government is looking forward to principally executing the plan of action as recommended in the report, to guide initiatives to prevent and counter piracy and its related activities.
“I extend sympathy to the bereaved families. We have been very successful over the last couple of years, since this Government took office in curbing piracy. On behalf of the Government I extend my sincerest gratitude to Dr. Thakur and his team for accepting this task and mandate and completing this report in a timely manner. I thank you for your diligence and commitment. I look forward to reading this report and wish to assure the nation, that this report in its entirety will be shared with my fellow Cabinet members for our deliberation,” she noted.
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.
A copy of the report was also handed over to Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Mr. Khemraj Ramjattan.