December 22, 2014

Airplane, GDF chopper to boost piracy fight

The ever-faltering Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Bell 412 helicopter and a Cessna aircraft that was abandoned several years ago by drug dealers in the interior will be refurbished to help provide air surveillance as government takes steps to beef up its fight against rampant sea piracy.

This announcement was made by Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon at a post-cabinet media briefing at the Office of the President on Wednesday. Dr Luncheon disclosed that air and sea surveillances will be heightened in a systematic and continuous manner to remedy the deteriorating piracy situation. He explained that the GDF Air Corps recapitalisation that has failed to perform as expected by the administration will be revitalised.

The GDF in 2007 had asked for permission to use the single-engine Cessna aircraft which it seized after drug dealers abandoned it at Kwapau, Middle Mazaruni back in 2005. The YV-265 7P aircraft, which still carries a Venezuelan flag on its tail, is parked at the GDF Air Corps hangar at Timehri. The aircraft found at the interior airstrip had among its features, a special drop door, as well as on-board fuel tanks to facilitate long-range flights, an indication that it may have been used in some illegal activity, including the trafficking in narcotics or persons.

Additionally, Dr Luncheon noted that the routine maritime patrols that exist will be complemented by vessels that will be acquired by the GDF and the Guyana Police Force, in an effort to enhance the system. The head of the presidential secretariat posited that the entire situation being faced by fishermen begs for relief and more inputs from law enforcers.

Dr Luncheon when questioned about the search and rescue operation as it relates to the five member crew whose search came to an abrupt end after their vessel capsized, leaving two dead, two feared drowned and one in stable condition at the Georgetown Public Hospital, said that the men acted without full information as to the search process.

The concerned men had launched their search on Saturday in an effort to locate the victims of the most recent piracy attack in the country, by which time the Maritime Search and Rescue operation had been mobilised.

Dr Luncheon said that the relevant authorities have mounted both timely and appropriate search and rescue operations, noting that it was a breakdown in communication that may have resulted in the men launching an independent search. “The flow of information might not have been profound as it could have been led those four poor unfortunate fisher folk to feel that an invention of the magnitude that actually took place, was not being done.” Arguing that the state’s response to the recent piracy attacks was good, he made it known that “the helicopters, the Bell 206 were there, we had boats commandeered by the relevant authority out to perform the search and rescue.”

President Donald Ramotar also on Tuesday summoned a meeting with persons who were either directly or indirectly affected by the recent pirate attack and mishap in the Pomeroon River, promising intervention at the level of the Cabinet. Ramotar assured the delegation of fisher folk that the necessary interventions will be guided by assessments of reports being received on a daily basis.

The attack occurred on the morning of February 3, off the coast of the river and joined the list of a spate of attacks which left 15 fishing boats with a total crew of 19 men being attacked, robbed, beaten, and bounded by pirates who, after their rampage, damaged some of the boats.