Akiva Augustine

An investigation has been launched into a March 3 incident in which the crew of a Grenadian vessel claimed they were brutalised by members of the T&T Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard said in a release yesterday that it is aware of reports circulating in the media about the incident.

“The report alleged conduct on the part of Coast Guard personnel that would not be in keeping with the service-oriented ethos that the Coast Guard expects from its members and which it has displayed over the years.”

The Coast Guard said it takes all allegations of that nature very seriously “because they affect public perception of the formation which may lead to a breakdown in trust that is a key component for its mission success. As a result, the Coast Guard launched an immediate investigation on the same morning of the incident to determine the facts of what occurred. This ongoing investigation will involve all parties concerned by the time of its completion.”

Keith Joseph, a crew member on the Grenada vessel the Rayniah J, told Guardian Media seven Grenadians and one Trinidadian were onboard making a routine trip to Trinidad when they were stopped in the Bocas by officers of the T&T Coast Guard.

Crew members claimed they were treated in a hostile manner and told to follow the officers back to their base.

Joseph said the crew members complied but two of them were then “brutalised” by the Coast Guard.

“One guy jumped on the vessel and that guy from the Coast Guard was the one who boarded us before. He dragged the captain, pushed him off the vessel onto the docks, and then there was a barrage of blows of slaps and kicks. That was shocking.”

Joseph said after the incident, someone in plain clothes who seemed to be a senior officer spoke to the Coast Guard officers after which they changed their demeanour, asked for their documents and they then told the vessel members they were free to go.

The vessel docked at Queen’s Wharf and one of the crew members who was allegedly beaten was taken to hospital.

Joseph said it was the first time something like that had happened and crew members are “a bit concerned about returning to Trinidad and Tobago.”

He said the Coast Guard’s media release on the incident was “too late.”

“We know they will cover this story and make us look bad. Most definitely we will take legal action,” he said.