Rishi Khemchan –
Bereaved relatives of missing Mayaro resident Rishi Khemchan, 38, renewed calls on the weekend for the authorities to hand over his body so they can bid a final farewell.
This month marks six months since the body believed to be Khemchan’s was handed over to local officials by their Venezuelan counterparts. Khemchan, of Grand Lagoon, worked as a mechanic and welder.
On March 11, the Coast Guard, accompanied by relatives, collected and returned with the body from Venezuela. The police, however, informed them that an autopsy had to be done at the Forensic Science Centre in St James before the body handed over to relatives.
On March 25, relatives provided DNA samples, but the test results are still pending.
Khemchan’s sister, Kavita Khemchan told Newsday: “We got his death certificate in Spanish from Venezuela. Now we are just waiting and waiting on forensics. It is overbearing. We are in September and are unsure what is going on. We don’t know if the DNA tests are being done locally or abroad. We are hearing the local lab is down, but that is not an excuse.
“We know it is his body. We did a virtual call with the Venezuelan officials about his dentures, bone structure and foot size. All the documents came when we got the body.”
Kavita said it has been a heartbreaking experience for relatives.
On January 31, Khemchan and three others left the Guayaguayare Fishing Port. That was the last time relatives saw them alive.
Also missing is the boat owner Heeralal “Lenus” Cooblal, 54. Boat captain George “Criminal George” Jotis, and Andy “Tallman” George, 40, both from Guayaguayare, remain unaccounted for.
Jotis is originally from the Ortoire Village/Manzanilla district.
Five days after the men left for the fishing expedition, the 32-foot pirogue (Venom II) the men were in was found capsized off Cedros near Venezuela. It was towed to Heritage Petroleum Ltd’s compound in Point Fortin.
In February, Venezuelans found a man’s body in a mangrove at the edge of Isla Cocuina in Delta Amacuro State.
Owing to the clothing and the cellphone found in the pocket on the body, Khemchan’s relatives said it was him.
On Thursday, Mayaro MP Rushton Paray called on the local authorities to intervene. He also expressed his “deep concern and dismay at the inaction and bureaucratic hurdles” the family has been facing.
A media release from the Opposition MP said fishermen’s disappearances at sea sent shock waves through the community. The pain and suffering their families endured are immeasurable.
“However, what compounds this already immense grief is the prolonged and unjust delay in providing them with the opportunity to lay their beloved Rishi to rest,” the statement said.
“While the physical return of his body offered a glimmer of hope to his family, the reality is that they have been denied the chance to properly say their goodbyes due to frustrating delays in the forensic analysis of his DNA sample.”
Paray said the delay was unacceptable, adding the entire community shares the Khemchan family’s pain.
“It is our moral duty to provide them with the closure they deserve. As MP, with a particular focus on matters of national security and justice, I feel compelled to speak out. I urgently implore the Minister of National Security, Fitzgerald Hinds, to take immediate, decisive action.
“The Khemchan family deserves more than just sympathy; they deserve the opportunity to say their final goodbyes to their beloved Rishi with the dignity and respect he deserves. This is not a matter of mere bureaucratic procedures. It is a matter of compassion and basic humanity.”
Paray called on people to stand together to deliver justice and comfort to those in their darkest hours.
“Our government must demonstrate its unwavering commitment to its citizens in times of their greatest need,” the Opposition MP said.
“The people of Mayaro and our entire nation are watching, hoping that compassion will prevail over bureaucracy and that Rishi Khemchan can finally be laid to rest with the dignity and respect that every individual deserves.”
Police from the Eastern Division confirmed the body had not been released from Forensics.
No further information was given.