Fishermen and Friends of the Sea (FFOS) take strong objection to the fact that Venezuelan poachers are invading the north coast of Trinidad as well as the fertile fishing grounds three to five miles north of Castara, Tobago. We fear that these Venezuelan poachers, like many before, are armed with weapons including machine guns.
Last week the Venezuelan poachers threatened and chased our local fishermen from our waters off Castara! Where is the Coast Guard (CG) in all of this? Do we not have the right to fish anymore?
Venezuela has become a crooked lawless country. They have lost their rudder and radar and have no sense of direction to lead their people out of the economic and judicial chaos that they presently face. Sadly, Venezuela has become a “dog eat dog” jungle.
Why are we are allowing their lawless poachers to invade our space and threaten our local fishermen?
We must not forget the past incident of how the Guardia Nacional almost murdered our fishermen. In 1999, Ricardo Phillips, the captain of a local fishing trawler “Red Snapper” was reported by our Coast Guard as having been thrown overboard off the south coast of Trinidad – “with his hands and legs bound” – by Venezuelan Guardia Nacional officers in the full glare of our Coast Guard officials.
Human rights are not the same in this destabilized neighbour. Why should we allow these people to continue to enter our waters, threaten and chase our nationals and take our resources?
Where are our Coast Guard vessels? Are they anchored in Scarborough and Chaguaramas? Should they not be anchored and/or patrolling the areas where our fishermen should be legally operating?
Our Coast Guard is a luxurious drain on our treasury with little effect. After all they have not protected our fishers and will continue to be incapable due to the equipment model that has been politically expedient. The model is only purchase extremely large and unaffordable equipment, which is prohibitively expensive to operate. So it means that the CG does not have smaller, much cheaper and more versatile deep-V pirogue vessels with easily serviceable engines.
Instead, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on a large fleet of ships (naval vessels) that are perfect if we were planning to defend our nation from invasion but prohibitively expensive and incompetent for navigating our near shore coastal areas.
The banner of “national security” has become a licence to spend without consultation. Have we forgotten that the previous government had to borrow TT$1.358 billion in 2015 for vessels for our CG? In the 2016/2017 budget $7.625 billion has been allocated for national security, yet where are the benefits of this excessive budget allocation… more murders, more lawlessness on every front?
What it boils down to is that there are no human rights, no liberties, no law, no order and no environmental, social, child or other justice if there is no money to support the enforcing institution. If our limited money continues to be blown away on ill conceived equipment, inflated acquisitions of property and services, and often outrageously inflated rentals of ghost facilities, we can expect to join our bankrupt neighbour soon enough.
With everyone free to enter and depart our territorial waters unreported, it is no wonder that the movement of illegal products has flourished so successfully in the past ten years. In 1999, the then prime minister stated that this nation had acquired state of the art radars, but like so much that he has said in the past, one never knows what is the truth. Do we have radars or not? Unless our government can protect our borders we stand to lose a lot more than our rights or our fish.
Fishermen and Friends of the Sea