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Friday 21 September 2018
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Cedros fishermen finally home

From Left Awarnath Hajarie, Nicholas Nanlal and Shammi Seepersad share a light moment on Cedros beach after being processed by local coast guard and Immigration officers yesterday. PHOTO BY AZLAN MOHAMMED

FOR the past 16 days, bride-to-be Hermatie Sankar anxiously awaited the arrival of her fiance who, together with her son and another man, was held in Venezuela.

Yesterday when Awardwath Hajarie, 52, walked up to their home, Sankar was so overcome by emotions that on seeing him she ran inside and back outside. Sankar, 50, a mother of four and grandmother of five greeted him with hugs and kisses. Even the family’s dog Scooby began frantically jumping up and down while licking Hajarie as the couple embraced in the gallery.

“I love him too bad. It is 26 going on 27 years we are together (sic),” Sankar told reporters.

On May 16, after 27 years of being in a common-law relationship, they plan to marry and officially become husband and wife.

“I already have the dress. I was praying all the time for them to return safely. I did not sleep much last night and got up very early this morning. I am cooking dhalpourie with curry channa and potato with chicken for him.”

Hajarie, their son Nicholas, 26, and friend Shami Seepersad, 35, also called Buck, arrived via a pirogue named Douge 3 at the Cedros port at about 2.15 pm. Since April 5 when Venezuela’s La Guardia Nacional arrested the three fishermen off the coast of Cedros, they remained in that country. The father and son live at Fullerton Village while Seepersad lives at Coromandel Village, in Cedros.

Apart from relatives, National Security Minister Edmund Dillon and Cedros Councillor Shankar Teelucksingh welcomed the fishermen back to the island.

Yesterday Hajarie told reporters that he was looking forward to his wedding ceremony. When asked about his immediate plans given that he is back Cedros, he responded: “To go and love my wife.”

He said based on comments on social media, people are suggesting he, his son and Seepersad were “looking for women” in Venezuela.

“But I love my wife. I doh love nobody else and I never cheat on she. Is 27 years now we together and I never cheated.”

Recalling the incident Hajarie said that he, his son and friend were fishing near Soldado Rock where they saw unknown men, believed to be bandits, in a vessel heading their direction. The fishermen sped off and headed towards a barge but the people on it told them to leave. The pursuers turned out to be La Guardia Nacional who arrested and took them to Perdenales. After five days in custody, they appeared in a court in Tucupita charged with fishing illegally in Venezuelan waters.

They were reprimanded and discharged in the care of the in-laws of his stepson Vicky Sankar also called Mickel.

There were conflicting reports about the cause of the delay in the fishermen’s return. At a post-Cabinet press conference on Thursday, Dillon said he sensed there was no urgency on the part of the fishermen to return. He as well as acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert claimed government officials made arrangements on April 15 and again on Wednesday for the fishermen to return. However, Dillon said that Mickel cancelled the arrangements despite efforts for their return.

“Vicky did not cancel any trip,” Hajarie said. “We were freed from the court but did not get documents stating that we had permission to leave the country. To sign the papers, we had to have proper identification. We were going through the procedure and only got through with everything yesterday.”

Like the other fishermen, Hajarie said that La Guardia Nacional did not ill-treat them nor did the Venezuelan family with whom they stayed.

Nicolas was the first of the three fishermen to be cleared by the immigration, custom and excise divisions in Cedros to leave the port. Saying food is a major problem in Venezuela, he went to a nearby shop and bought two bottles of Coke and a pack of cigarettes.

“It costs 250,000 bolivars for a bottle of this. Things are very expensive down there. You cannot go by anybody to get something because they don’t have,” he said as he took a sip from the bottle.

He placed blame on Venezuela’s immigration officials whom he accused of “coasting to stamp documents” which would have allowed the fishermen to travel out of that country. The mishap will not deter him from going out at sea because he said fishing is his life.

Seepersad who is neither married nor has children seemed to have taken a liking to Venezuela. With a smile, he said he loved Venezuela particularly the women.

“It was nice down there. It have plenty nice Spanish women. I love Tucupita, I love Venezuela. They (Sankar’s in-laws) treated us like family.”

In a media release, the National Security Ministry said the men left Tucupita at about 8.52 am yesterday with two members of La Guardia Nacional on board the vessel. Another vessel from Venezuela escorted the fishermen as well as other relatives from Venezuela. At around 12.37 pm they met the local Coast Guard Vessel – TTS Moruga – near Soldado Rock where the two Guardia Nacional officers returned to their parent vessel.

“The TTS Moruga deployed its interceptor and together they escorted the boat with our nationals to the port at Cedros.

“The three nationals were in good health and were very appreciative of the efforts by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to ensure their safe return home,” the release said.

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