Guyana protests
- meeting with Suriname to be convened in Trinidad

Stabroek News
June 4, 2000

A strong protest about the violation of Guyana's airspace and territorial waters has been lodged with the Government of Suriname by the Government of Guyana.

In a release issued last night by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it was stated that the violations had occurred on Friday at 9:50am and yesterday at 12.25am and 12:00pm at the site of CGX Resources Inc's oil drilling operations.

The release also indicated that a high level meeting between the two sides was to be convened in Trinidad and Tobago within a few days.

A Reuters report yesterday said that Suriname's navy had forced CGX to remove the rig, but that no shots had been fired during the incident. The news agency reported Suriname's army chief, Glenn Sedney, as saying during a press briefing that the rig had been towed out of the disputed area in the Atlantic Ocean after its personnel had been told "in no uncertain terms that they should leave Surinamese territory within a certain time".

Sedney was quoted as telling reporters that "if I'm not mistaken, the platform has already left our territory within the time given by our navy.'' Reuters said that CGX officials had confirmed that the platform had indeed left the area.

The report went on to quote Sedney as saying that "we are still in the area and we will stay there until we are certain that no activities will be carried out.''

The release issued by Guyana's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that an official note had been handed to Suriname's Ambassador to Guyana Humphrey Hasrat, who had been summoned to the ministry at 3:15pm yesterday afternoon.

It went on to say that the Guyana government had also protested about Suriname's "intimidatory and hostile actions against CGX Resources Inc," which had prevented them from "carrying out their legitimate drilling operations within Guyana's maritime boundary and forcing them to relocate to another prospecting area within their concession."

"These hostile and intimidatory actions by the Surinamese Navy," said the release, "posed a serious threat to the lives of CGX's personnel and property while they were conducting their legitimate activities within Guyana's Maritime boundary."

Permission to explore for oil in the area described as the Corentyne block was granted to the Canadian based CGX company by the Guyana government in 1998. The CGX vessel was towed to the site from nearby Trinidad and Tobago, and was due to begin drilling last Friday.

Last week the Suriname government issued a protest about the company's operations, claiming that it was drilling in Surinamese territorial waters, and warned that it reserved the right "to take appropriate measures to bring an immediate end to these illegal activities."

According to the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Guyana government had called on the Government of Suriname to desist from "committing further hostile activities within its territorial jurisdiction."

It went on to refer to the "unacceptable... lack of good faith" on the part of Suriname, since the violations had occurred while consultations were in progress at the highest political level aimed at defusing the situation, and arranging a time and venue for a meeting between the two sides.

Expressing the commitment of the Guyana government to promoting good neighbourly relations with Suriname, as with all its neighbours, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged the reconvening of the Guyana-Suriname National Border Commissions, and the Guyana Suriname Cooperation Council, which, it said, should be "reinvigorated with a sense of dynamism and purposefulness."

The statement said that the Government of Guyana had reaffirmed its support for the operations of CGX in this country, and had "pledged to do its utmost to ensure that no harm comes to the personnel and property of the... company while they are carrying out their legitimate activities in Guyana's territorial waters."

Yesterday, according to the release, representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), the Guyana Police Force and the Geology and Mines Commission had met for a second round of consultations with President Jagdeo.

Subsequently, representatives from the political parties, the United States Embassy, the British and Canadian High Commissions and the European Delegation were briefed at separate encounters.

The ministry also took the opportunity to reiterate a statement made by Jagdeo at the GDF's annual officers' conference in May, namely that "Guyana will maintain a strong diplomatic offensive and will be prepared, at the military level to protect its borders."

The statement went on to refer to the contradictions inherent in Suriname's position, given that she is a member of the Group of 77 and CARICOM, and that in the Declaration adopted at the South Summit held in Havana, there had been a call for "restraint in international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity and political independence of any State... and for the solution of disputes and conflicts by peaceful means."

"It is hoped," concluded the ministry, "that the high level meeting to be convened in Trinidad and Tobago within a few days will lay the basis for a constructive approach to a resolution of the current controversy and put back on track the tried and tested mechanisms for the promotion and enhancement of Guyana-Suriname relations."

Guyana on Friday had extended an invitation to Suriname to send a high-level delegation to Guyana within 24 hours to discuss the issue.

According to a report by Andrea Alexander, who produces an English language radio newscast in Paramaribo, Suriname's Foreign Ministry had issued a statement saying that the government of the neighbouring state would not tolerate any intrusion in the area and was prepared to talk to Guyana only after the rig had indeed left the zone it claimed was in dispute. Alexander's report quoted the Surinamese army chief as describing the action as not being a military action per se, since the army was only ensuring that Suriname's economic zone was protected.

The statement, according to Alexander, said that Suriname had informed the United Nations and CARICOM - of which both Guyana and Suriname are members - of the situation.

Canada's non-resident ambassador to Suriname, Jacques Crete, Alexander reported, was said to have been informed of developments. Crete, who is due to return from Suriname today, is based here.

The release, Alexander added, said too that Suriname had been disappointed by Guyana's actions since she had always pursued a sincere policy of good neighbourliness.

A Reuters report on Friday had reported the Surinamese army chief as indicating that regular reconnaissance flights were being made over the area where CGX was drilling. "The army is ready to act whenever it is needed in the area that we consider as Surinamese property," he was quoted as saying, adding that "We are not in favour of an armed clash to solve the problem. However, it has to be clear that the army will not just sit and watch what happens." The flare-up on the border comes just over a week after Surinamese voted in general elections in which President Jules Wijdenbosch's party won just three of the National Assembly's 51 seats. A meeting of the National Assembly to elect a new president has not yet been scheduled.

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