Guyana, U.S. sign maritime agreement
- move to strengthen counter narcotics capabilities

by Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
April 11, 2001

KEY STEP: President Bharrat Jagdeo captures the attention of from left, U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Ronald Goddard; visiting General Peter Pace of the U.S. Southern Command; Chief of Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Michael Atherly and Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon. (Cullen-Bess Nelson photo). GUYANA yesterday entered into a key Maritime Law Enforcement Agreement with the United States that paves the way for the strengthening of their counter narcotics capabilities.

As a result, life will now be made more difficult for criminal elements with no respect for the citizens and borders of the two countries.

Under the pact, a shiprider from the U.S. can now intercept and board any suspect vessel in Guyana's waters, and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Coast Guard stands to benefit from a wide range of assistance, including training and equipment.

Affixing their signatures to the document on behalf of their respective governments at a simple ceremony at the Office of the President in Georgetown were recently-appointed Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon and U.S. Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Ronald Goddard.

According to the Ambassador, Guyana on implementing the agreement will join 24 other states in the region that have signed bilateral maritime law enforcement agreements with the U.S.

He pointed out that through the signing, both the U.S. and Guyana governments have expressed a commitment to common objectives for the benefit of both countries and their peoples.

The two governments will now "apply their energy and resources to strengthen the counter-narcotics capabilities of the countries, and make life difficult for the criminal elements who have no respect for our people or our borders," he stated.

Also, with the combined efforts of the Guyana Government and the U.S., "we will enforce our laws and make it more difficult for drug traffickers, maritime pirates and smugglers to carry on their trade."

Noting the U.S. is pleased to assist the Guyana Government in equipping its law enforcement personnel with the skills, information and resources they require, Goddard expressed the hope that Guyana "will play a bigger and more effective role as part of the community of Caribbean nations committed to fighting narcotics trafficking."

Alluding to Guyana's joining the 23 other states in signing the agreement, Goddard said it provides striking evidence of the common struggle between the countries "to deny the drug cartels the ability to operate with impunity."

"From the Pacific coast of Central America, across the Caribbean and from the Bahamas in the northeast to Guyana and Suriname in the southeast, we are creating a nearly seamless web of nations committed to a cooperative effort to defeat the criminal forces who violate our territory and our laws," he said.

Goddard said the agreement sets forth procedures, which the signatories will follow when suspect vessels are discovered intruding in Guyana's waters and air space.

It will also enable Guyana and the U.S. to work together to the extent possible, strengthening even more an existing relationship of friendship and mutual respect.

Pointing out that for the agreement to come into force, each country is required to comply with mechanisms and procedures, Goddard hoped that its implementation would be "an important priority" of President Bharrat Jagdeo's newly re-elected government and the new Parliament.

"It will show the world that Guyana and the United States stand together as partners in our mutual commitment to effective law enforcement."

Dr Luncheon called the signing another milestone in the development of bilateral relationships between Guyana and the U.S., adding it is intended to govern maritime cooperation between the two states in the global fight against narco-trafficking.

According to him, the fight against narco-trafficking is an international responsibility to which Guyana is committed and the thrust of the Guyana Government is to have the agreement implemented.

To this end, he said, necessary steps have already been identified and the government is committed to the closure of the process. It is also committed in its undertaking to work and cement the national position on combating narco-trafficking and provide mutual legal assistance in areas related to combating narco-trafficking.

Additionally, the government's commitment to further capitalise the military would undoubtedly contribute greatly to the ability of the GDF to undertake maritime operations against narco-trafficking and its main objective of securing the country's maritime resources.

On this note, Luncheon said steps have already been taken to develop a multilateral Maritime Law Enforcement Agreement involving the states of the Caribbean, a move Guyana supports in principle.

Among those at yesterday's ceremony were President Bharrat Jagdeo; visiting Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Southern Command, General Peter Pace; members of the Defence Board; newly-appointed Ministers and other officials of the Guyana Government; and Chief of Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Michael Atherly and other senior officers.