Pirates attack four boats in Atlantic
Engines taken away, shots fired

By Leonard Gildarie
Stabroek News
August 1, 2000

In a one-hour rampage eight miles out in the Atlantic Ocean on Sunday night, pirates, firing shots, attacked several fishermen and escaped with over $2 million worth in engines.

According to the fishermen who all hailed from Goed Fortuin, West Bank Demerara, the two armed, masked men using a small motor-boat, also kidnapped a teenager and used him to bail their leaking boat, before later releasing him.

One of the fishermen barely escaped with his life after one of the pirates opened fire. The bullet managed to graze the man's left shoulder. Four 40-horsepower Yamaha engines, estimated to cost $500,000 each, were taken.

Speaking with Stabroek News yesterday, Omadat Deoram, 33, who is the owner of one of the boats attacked, said the incident occurred sometime after 2100 hrs. The shaken man, recounting the events, said that at the time he was with two other fishermen; Iver Dodson, 43, and another man called `Power.' Several other fishing boats were around at the time also, though some distance away.

Suddenly, a boat appeared out of the darkness and two men, both masked and armed with guns, were seen. One was driving the boat while another stood at the stern cradling a "skeleton gun." A teenager, under guard, was seen scooping water from the pirates' boat.

The fishermen were ordered to disconnect the engine from its fittings. Omadat said that he started to "argue with the men" and one of them opened fire on him. "Is only because I pull aside that the bullet miss me," said Omadat, displaying the wound on his left shoulder where the round had grazed him. Dodson also said he was "lashed" on the head with a gun butt.

The fuel tank and its lead were taken from the fishermen's boat and they were ordered by the pirates to stay put - the masked men said that they would be back for the engine. Omadat also said that two other boats which were also in close proximity pulled out from the area after hearing the shot.

Desmond Toney, 24, another fisherman, who was working the "Lildar" said that he was busy attending to his catch when a boat came up to them and they were also ordered by two "masked men" with guns, to hand over their engine. The men were cursing and threatened to shoot if their orders were not complied with, Toney said. Again, the same method of operation was used.

The armed robbers, this newspaper heard, also moved rapidly on two other boats in a similar manner. According to 42-year-old Feroze Samad, who was with another fisherman, one of the pirates was wearing a white toque as a mask. Samad said that he was ordered to attach his engine onto the pirates' boat. The armed men then went to another boat not far away but left it alone after declaring the engine was too old.

Toney said that the pirates returned to him shortly after and he too was told to fasten his engine onto the pirates' boat.

"Don't mek meh ... engine get scratch," one of the pirates was heard saying. Toney disclosed that the teenager who was in the boat was ordered out of the pirates' boat and into his. He later learnt that the teenager had been taken from another fishing boat that had been attacked by bandits. However the engine from that boat was not taken as it was deemed "too old" by the robbers.

The pirates then pulled away, discharging a warning round in the air.

According to the fishermen, acts of piracy are nothing new. There have been numerous hijackings on the seas along the entire coast by armed bandits with similar incidents only a few weeks ago. These attacks have been particularly prevalent on the Corentyne. In most cases, the engines are the targets, not the boats.

What measures should be in place by the authorities to stem piracy? According to the fishermen the Coast Guards and other concerned organisations should conduct more patrols on the seas - especially around the fishing areas which have been prime targets for pirates. Contacted yesterday, Minister of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock Satyadeow Sawh told Stabroek News that he was visited by the affected fishermen at his office and has since contacted and is liaising with the Ministry of Home Affairs over the issue. Sawh, expressing his concern over the plight facing the fishermen, also indicated his intention to make contact with the Berbice Anti-Smuggling Squad for any seized engines which may be sold to the fishermen at a "reduced price."

The Minister also pointed out that the government is seriously looking at the enhancement of the Coast Guard arm of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) as was evidenced by "certain pronouncements" made in the press over the last few weeks in light of the Suriname incident.

Stephen Thomas, Harbour Master, revealing that he was unaware of the robberies, told this newspaper that in terms of security for the fishermen, the local police and Coast Guard were in charge of this. The Harbour Master said his department is more specifically concerned with the seaworthiness and safety of vessels.

Spokesperson for the Guyana Defence Force, Captain Wycliffe McAllister said that the Coast Guard while having the mandate to protect Guyana and its waters has "no high seas" capabilities in terms of resources. The patrols, including police and army personnel, he said, are limited to the rivers and harbour area.

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