Fisherman’s family calls on govt: Bring body home from Venezuela

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Rishi Khemchan who is among four fishermen from the Grand Lagoon village Mayaro and Guayaguayare area since Tuesday. Heritage Petroleum workers recovered the sunken boat off Cedros on Sunday. The boat was used by four fishermen who left the Guayaguayare Fishing Port on Tuesday and have been missing at sea.

“BRING my brother’s body home.”

That is the heartfelt plea of Kavita Khemchan, the youngest sister of Rishi Khemchan, one of four fishermen who went missing after leaving Guayaguayare in February.

The others on the fishing expedition were Heeralal Cooblal, Andy George and George Jotis.

Kavita Khemchan said Wednesday marked 18 days since her brother’s body was found and identified, and diplomatic exchanges had taken place over repatriating his body, but to date it has not been returned.

Kavita said her family has been liaising with an official from the Ministry of Foreign and Caricom Affairs.

“We were told last Friday everything was in place for the retrieval of the body, that it was ready to be handed over to the TT Government.

“Monday passed, Tuesday passed. Today is Wednesday and we have no further update.

“We are hearing that there is some issue with the Venezuelan authorities. I do not know what the nature of the issue is.

“We just want to bury him.”

She said the family are devout Roman Catholics and plan to contact the office of Archbishop of Port of Spain Jason Gordon to find out if he can help.

She said after a priest prayed with them at Mt St Benedict, they got news that Rishi’s body had been found. She believes the archbishop’s intervention could help, and says all plans are in place for her brother’s final send-off.

The family wants to do it during the 40 days of Lent.

“We have passed the stage of denial into acceptance. We want our time to grieve now. This grief, however, is mixed with anger and frustration, because we don’t know what is happening.

“Right now, we don’t know exactly where the remains are, if it is in a funeral home. The last we heard, it was in a police station in Tucupita. We don’t know if it is in cold storage or what is the condition.”But she added, “I don’t want to sound like I am coming down on government. They are helping us a lot. I would be ungrateful to say they are not.

“We just want them to speed up the process. Tell us how long we have to wait before we get back the body, or tell us whether or not we would be getting back a body.”

Kavita said Khemchan, the oldest of six siblings, assumed the role of their father when their parents died.

“He and my brother Ravi lived in the family home. He did everything for Ravi, washed his clothes, cooked for him. Ravi is in a mess.

“I do not live with them. I live in Arima and work in Caroni.

“When he calls my phone and I don’t answer immediately, he gets worried.”

Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne said while he understands the urgency felt by the families and loved ones, his ministry continues to liaise with the Ministry of National Security and the Government of Venezuela to do its part to have the body repatriated.

Vallence Rambharat, head of the Hunters Search and Rescue NGO, who has been searching for the fishermen, said he shared the frustration of the Khemchan family.

“It’s been 18 days since Rishi’s body was recovered along the Venezuelan coastline. Efforts to have his body returned to his family have thus been futile.

“While Hunters Search and Rescue Team understands that laws are different, we also know the power of diplomacy. We are therefore appealing to the authorities to seek a diplomatic resolution for Rishi Khemchan’s family to achieve closure.

“Let’s get Rishi home,” Rambharat said.