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Cedros fishermen back home

...grieving wife happy to see husband after 16 days
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Cedros fisherman Awardnath Hajarie hugs and kisses his wife, Heematie Sanker, while his pet dog scooby gets excited on his arrival to his home in Fullerton Village, Cedros, yesterday. PICTURE RISHI RAGOONATH

The kiss between Awardnath Hajarie and his bride-to-be Heermatie Sanker was almost like a fairytale ending when they embraced each other for the first time in 16 days.

It was the first time since Harjarie, their son Nicholas, and colleague Shami Seepersad were arrested and dragged to Venezuela by La Guardia Nacional de Venezuela that Sanker smiled so brightly. Grinning from ear to ear at their Fullerton Village, Cedros home yesterday, all Sanker could mutter was, "I'm so proud and it is nice to see him home after 16 days."

The stress of her family being stranded in Venezuela since April 5 had taken a toll on Sanker's health.

Outside the National Security Complex yesterday, Hajarie acknowledged Sanker's grief, saying that the first thing he was going to do was to show his love for her. He said while in Venezuela, he spoke to her on the telephone and she uttered some weird comments.

"With frustration, anything can come out your mouth. My plan is to go and love my wife, to hug her up and give her a loving kiss. People were putting up on Facebook that we (fishermen) were going to get married down there, but I love my wife. I don’t love anybody else. I never hurt my wife, I never cheated on her. It’s 27 years together and I looking to live another 27 with her," Hajarie said.

The couple will now continue plans for their wedding on May 16.

The fishermen, along with Hajarie's stepson, Vicky Sanker, left Tucupita, Venezuela, around 8.52 am yesterday with two members of the La Guardia aboard their pirogue. Around 12.37 pm, they met the T&T coast guard vessel, TTS Moruga, near Soldado Rock where the two La Guardia Nacional officers returned to their parent vessel. The TTS Moruga deployed its interceptor and escorted the fishermen's pirogue to the Cedros port where their relatives were waiting for hours. The fishermen were processed by Immigration Division officials and Custom and Excise officers.

The first thing Nicholas did was to purchase a pack of cigarette and a bottle of Coca-Cola, which he said was too expensive in Venezuela. Nicholas said he was glad to be home given the harsh economy in Venezuela. He said after being reprimanded and discharged by the Venezuela court, they just "chilled out" at Vicky's in-laws' home.

"When we were supposed to come home yesterday, the Immigration (Venezuela) did not want to stamp our papers. I don't know why they did that. I wanted to come back home because down in Tucupita they're not making any money because people are seeing real trouble. But in Trinidad now, you can still make money or you can go to somebody's house. You can't go by anybody down there and get anything. You must have money to buy things to eat and things very expensive down there," Nicholas said.

Despite the trauma of being arrested by heavily armed guards at sea, he said fishing was his life and he will return to sea once the fishing pirogue, Shaketie, is returned to them. The pirogue, which is owned by Suklal Mannah, remained in Venezuela as officials requested the original registration document for the vessel. Mannah had originally submitted a photocopy.

Kidnapping or arrest?

On April 5, Hajarie, 52, Nicholas, 26 and Seepersad, 35, were fishing in the Soldado Main Field located in Trinidad waters when they were chased by La Guardia Nacional. They were arrested near a Trinmar installation. A video of the arrest, shot from the installation, was published on Facebook.

Coast guard reported that during routine operations, they saw two unidentified pirogues crossing between Venezuela and T&T waters. However, it appeared that when the vessels observed the T&T Coast Guard, they retreated to Venezuelan waters. The Coast Guard vessel, in accordance with international law, did not pursue those vessels into Venezuelan waters.

Dillon: Investigations ongoing

National Security Minister Edmund Dillon, who greeted the fishermen on arrival at the Cedros port, told journalists that investigations into the arrests were ongoing.

A release from the Ministry of National Security on April 5 stated that the coast guard observed that several T&T vessels being pursued by Venezuelan vessels and that the chase "apparently encroached into the waters of Trinidad and Tobago." However, when asked about the arrested men being in local waters, Dillon said this was just an assumption.




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