Terrible and unprofessional.
That’s how a fisherman of Vieux-Fort has described the treatment meted out to him by law enforcement officers in St. Vincent while in their custody, after his fishing vessel experienced mechanical problems and drifted to the neighbouring island.
According to Thomas Evans of Bruceville, Vieux-Fort, his experience at sea when his boat engine suddenly stopped working was not as harrowing as the treatment he received at a police station in a rural part of St. Vincent.
“I was not really afraid when the boat engine stopped working because it was not the first time I have had such an experience at sea. I know what it’s like… I am a fisherman,” Evans alleged in an interview with this reporter.
Evans, who was the captain of the fishing vessel, said the other member of the crew was not taken into police custody because he suffered with hernia while in St. Vincent, and had to be kept at a hospital where he spent four days before they returned to St. Lucia last Thursday.
“They kept me in a cell at the police station for four days with my wet clothes. They treated me very badly…, ” Evans said, adding that he was in a cell with four other men.
He added: “In the morning they gave me a bread and coffee…at 5 p.m. some rice and a wing, and nothing in the evening.”
Evans said the police accused him of dealing with drugs, adding that whenever St. Lucian fishermen find themselves in St. Vincent due to distress at sea, they are treated as drug dealers.
“All what they were talking about was drugs, drugs…:” Evans said.
He said this is not the first time he has been treated in such a manner by Vincentian police after experiencing distress at sea.
According to Evans, what made matters worse for him was that he did not have a fisherman Identification Card because his got damaged. He said that the police told him that as long as he does not have a fisherman’s ID card they can’t treat him as a genuine fisherman.
Evans is now calling on all fishermen to make sure that whenever they go to sea they have their fisherman ID card with them.
Recounting his experience at sea after his fishing vessel experienced mechanical problems, he said they were on their way back to St. Lucia with about 150 pounds of fish when their boat engine stopped working and drifted them on a reef which badly damaged their boat.
“We spent the whole night on the rocks…” Evans recalled.
He said the following day a fishing vessel which spotted them came to their rescue and took them to a nearby village.
A number of fishermen from Vieux-Fort say they have experienced similar ordeal at the hands of Vincentians police officers after they experienced distress at sea.
They say while they are being treated inhumanely in St. Vincent, local police officers treat Vincentians fishermen who experience distress at sea in a humane manner.