T&T Coast Guard officers are being accused of beating three Icacos fishermen who were caught returning from an area near the Venezuelan border on Saturday night.
Captain Rakesh Ramdass, owner of the boat St Catherine TFS2888 said they were returning home from fishing on Saturday around 8.30 pm when they saw flares emanating from what appeared to be a T&T Coast Guard vessel.
Ramdass said it was difficult to spot the Coast Guard interceptor as the lights had been off.
“We only noticed it when we saw the flares,” he added.
Once detained, Ramdass said the officers accused them of transporting drugs from Venezuela even though there were no drugs on the boat.
“I told them I don’t deal up in that and they said they saw my boat coming from the Venezuelan border,” Ramdass said. He explained to the officers that he had dropped his nets at Galfa Point but the nets had drifted towards the border so he went to retrieve it.
“They said I was lying and they accused me of dumping drugs. The officer start to hit me some kicks. I swear to them that I was not lying but they kept hitting me,” he added.
His wife Christina Ramsaran said when she heard of her husband’s arrest she went to the T&T Coast Guard base in Cedros but the officers did not immediately come out.
“When I finally got to them I told them I will take it further because there are many drug boats working and they not picking those up on the radar. They coming to assault the fishermen,” she added.
She called for legal advice saying many of the fishermen had families to take care of and had no choice but to turn to the sea to earn a livelihood.
“We have a three-week-old baby. My husband got laid off from Forestry and he took a loan and bought a boat and engine to work in the sea. We have three children to mind and it is very difficult for us,” Ramsaran said.
Meanwhile, councillor for the area Shankar Teelucksingh said this was not the only group of fishermen who were detained.
Teelucksingh said even though fishermen were deemed essential by the Ministry of National Security some arms of law enforcement were harassing fishermen for plying their trade after 6 pm.
“The Minister must give clear guidelines to the law enforcement officers who are causing panic among the fishing community. Fishing occurs based on the change of the tide. Right now it is shrimp time and shrimp holds in the night, not in the day. I am calling on law enforcement authorities to enforce the law but we are also asking them to communicate better with the fisherfolk so they can all work together and achieve,” Teelucksingh added.
Meanwhile, public affairs officer at the T&T Coast Guard Lieutenant Khadija Lamy in a statement said on 19 April 2020, while conducting border security patrols, Coast Guard officers intercepted a vessel named ‘AMANDA’ off the Southwestern coast of Trinidad.
“The vessel had been observed crossing the border from Venezuela into T&T waters. On board were three male T&T nationals. Upon searching the vessel, a cargo of shrimp was discovered. The vessel was detained and its crew and cargo were handed over to police, Customs and Excise Division and Immigration Division,” Lamy said.
Last week, Young said while fishermen will still be allowed to ply their trade they must abide by the same social distancing protocols as other essential services.