– be detained for 45 days pending an investigation
–Vueuela commits to ‘early release’
By Navendra Seoraj
MANY “rough tides” are second nature to fishermen, but a 12-member Guyanese crew held captive in Venezuela is potentially life-threatening, as they are charged and imprisoned, until a 45-day investigation is conducted.
The fishermen, who operated their trade along the Waini River in two groups of six on the ships of Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf, were captured by Venezuelan naval troops.
This act of ‘interference’ by Venezuela has been condemned by local authorities, who have upheld claims that the two vessels, operating off the coast of Waini Point, within Guyana’s Unique Economic Zone (EEZ), were intercepted by a Venezuelan naval ship, “Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24”, on Thursday, January 21, 2021.
According to information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Captain Richard Ramnarine, of Lady Nayera, and Captain Toney Garraway, of the Sea Wolf, after being captured in the Waini area, were instructed to charter a course to Port Güiria in Venezuela, where the two ships, registered at Essequibo, and the 12-member crew, originating in Essequibo, have been detained.
The Guyana Chronicle was informed Sunday that Sea Wolf crew members included Garraway, Errol Gardener, Orland Roberts, Christopher Shaw, Shirvin Oneil and Randy Henry while crew members aboard Lady Nayera were Ramnarine, Ramlakan Kamal, Nick Raghubar , Javin Boston, Michael Domingo and Joel Joseph.
Sea Wolf owner Kumar Lalbachan, when contacted by the Guyana Chronicle on Monday night, said he had managed to contact members of his crew, but he was left confused by the news he had left.
“We got word from them, but they said they were [Venezuelan authorities] bring them to court and they have a 45-day investigation, ”said Lalbachan.
Not to mention that they will be caught for 45 days, Lalbachan, who was obviously shocked, said his crew were kept on their boats. It remains unclear at this time whether they will have to spend the entire 45 days on the boat.
Local authorities have not yet confirmed this information, but Lalbachan told this publication that it has been a direct source of communication between the fishermen and local officials.
TRYING TO BE THE BEST
“They are [local authorities] are trying their best to be honest … they are working hard to solve this, ”said the boat owner.
Early Monday, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd, met with Lalbachan and the other boat owner, when he conveyed the Government’s commitment to lobbying for the release of crew and ships.
The Foreign Minister also updated the owners on the Government’s efforts including issuing a statement condemning Venezuela’s recent actions and passing a “verbale note” in protest of Venezuelan naval actions.
“We are doing everything we can to reunite crew members with their families and help you continue your business,” said the minister.
The Foreign Minister promised to stay in touch with the owners and share updates as they happen.
The Guyana Government considers the “capture” of Guyanese fishermen to be an unnecessary show of aggression by Venezuelan armed forces against Guyana and Guyanese citizens.
“This Venezuelan act amounts to an interference with Guyana’s sovereign rights in its EEZ, contrary to international law,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Minister Todd called in the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Republic of Venezuela’s Bolivian Republic, Moses Chavez, early Monday, to hand over the protest note from the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The protest note firmly condemns the illegal detention of the captains and crew of the Guyanese registered fishing vessels, Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf, and calls for their immediate release.
Minister Todd used the opportunity to voice his concerns on the issue, and noted that the action coming out of Caracas was inadvertent. The minister further added that on both latitude and longitude, both ships were well within Guyana territory.
The minister highlighted the regional peace zone and called on Venezuela to act in a manner consistent with the rule of international law.
This post was also handed over by Minister Todd to Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza during a virtual meeting on Monday. The discussion was described as cordial.
According to a press release from the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the two ministers exchanged views in the context of the detention of the ships and crew.
The Venezuelan Foreign Minister ensured that crew members were treated with the utmost respect for their human rights. At the request of Foreign Minister Todd, Minister Arreaza undertook to pursue their early release.
The two foreign affairs ministers agreed to the importance of mutual respect in relations between the two countries.
Every member of the family of preserved fishermen, when contacted by this publication, said that they were eagerly awaiting the return of their relatives, as, in some cases, they are the sole breadwinner of the house. The Government of Guyana has demanded the immediate release of crew and ships.
It further compels the Government of Venezuela, and its agents, to behave in a manner consistent with international law, and good neighborly relations. The international community, says the Government of Guyana, will be informed of all actions taken by Venezuela to undermine Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Commonwealth, CARICOM, United States of America and Canada have all indicated their full support for Guyana in this ongoing border dispute before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Guyana seeks final and binding judgment that the 1899 Arbitration Award, which established the location of the land border between the then British Guiana and Venezuela, remained valid, and that the Essequibo region belonged to Guyana, and not Venezuela.
Most recently, the ICJ ruled that on December 18, 2020, it had jurisdiction to hear the case of the Guyana-Venezuela border dispute. It was reported that Guyana is confident that the international court will resolve the matter in its favor, and that this will also settle the issue of maritime rights in the adjacent sea and seabed. However, under international law, it is now for the ICJ to decide.