Team members named for key oil rig talks
PNC supporting govt's efforts

By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
June 12, 2000

Preparations are underway for a key two-day meeting between Guyana and Suriname tomorrow on the CGX oil rig and the opposition PNC yesterday signalled its support for government's efforts at maintaining the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Late last week the talks of the Joint Technical Committee (JTC) seemed in jeopardy as reports in the media and at the official level emanating from Suriname suggested that Paramaribo was having second thoughts because of concerns about the contents of a release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the Specal Ministerial Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago.

There was concern too in Paramaribo that Guyana had announced that Suriname had until June 18 to conclude an agreement on the CGX rig's return to its location. Suriname's president, Jules Wijdenbosch, had described the statement and the release by the Foreign Ministry as "flagrantly in contrast" with what took place in Trinidad.

However, over the weekend following explanations by the Charge d'Affaires in the Guyana Embassy in Paramaribo, Arlington Bancroft, preparations for the meeting have proceeded apace. Bancroft was summoned to the Surinamese Foreign Ministry and he assured the Surinamese that Guyana stood by the agreements reached at the meeting in Trinidad on Wednesday.

The two sides have since exchanged the names of the members of the delegation to the JTC meeting. Guyana did so on Thursday and Suriname has informally notified the authorities here of its team and the official confirmation should be delivered today.

Stabroek News understands that Suriname's ambassador to Guyana, Dr Humphrey Hasrat, contacted Foreign Affairs Minister Clement Rohee to inform him of Suriname's participation and to provide him with the names of the members of the team.

Contacted yesterday, Dr Hasrat told Stabroek News that he had no information as yet whether the team would be arriving by the regular Suriname Airways flight today or whether they would arrive by a special plane.

He said too that he did not exclude the possibility of a Minister being added to what he described as a purely technical team at this time.

Suriname is also due to indicate at the meeting tomorrow, the steps that will be necessary to allow the CGX rig to return to its drilling location in Guyana's territorial waters unhindered.

The Guyana delegation has not been announced by the Ministry as yet but Stabroek News understands that it is likely to be led by the Director of the Foreign Ministry's Economic Affairs Department, Donald Abrams and will include representatives of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Guyana Defence Force and a legal adviser, Dr Barton Scotland.

Tomorrow's meeting of the JTC is a consequence of one of the agreements reached in Trinidad at the Special Ministerial Meeting which was convened after the eviction of the CGX rig from Guyana's waters by Suriname.

Another agreement was the reconvening of the Guyana-Suriname Border Commission by July 18, to deal with the wider issue of the frontier dispute between the two countries. Guyana had recommended the reactivation of the Border Commission and the conclusion of a fisheries agreement both of which have been on the back burner for some time despite efforts by Guyana to bring them to the fore.

Meanwhile, CARICOM Secretary-General, Edwin Carrington met with Suriname's President, Jules Wijdenbosch on Saturday but declined to comment yesterday any further on the talks except to say that they were fine.

Asked too if there were any measures which the Community could take in an attempt to help to resolve the impasse between the two countries, Carrington also declined to comment but said that the CARICOM chairman, St Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister, Dr Denzil Douglas, would be issuing a statement on the matter today.

Stabroek News understands too that a representative of the Canadian government held discussions with Surinamese authorities in Paramaribo on Saturday and made out a case for the CGX return to its drilling location. The representative pointed out the economic benefits which could flow to both countries from a resolution of the impasse.

Meanwhile, CGX Energy officials presently in Guyana are awaiting the results of the talks. Kerry Sully, CGX's president, told Stabroek News yesterday that his company was following with interest the reports in the Guyanese and Suriname media but declined to make any further comment on the issue.

Though the major opposition parliamentary parties have made no statement as yet on the issue, Stabroek News has been assured that there was no question of not displaying a unified front on the issue.

Oscar Clarke, general secretary of the People's National Congress (PNC), told Stabroek News yesterday that the PNC had recommended a number of steps which the Government should take and which it had accepted. The recommendations were made when Foreign Minister, Rohee briefed the parliamentary opposition.

Clarke said that his party would be issuing a statement after its executive has had an opportunity to discuss the matter but he said that the Government should do whatever was necessary to maintain the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Manzoor Nadir, leader of The United Force, told Stabroek News yesterday that the party's executive was yet to meet to discuss the issue. Also he said that he expected the parties to be briefed shortly by President Bharrat Jagdeo.

The CGX oil rig was forced to abandon its drilling location because of fear for the safety and welfare of its crew after two Surinamese gun boats ordered it out of the area two Saturdays ago claiming that it was in Surinamese waters.

CGX was granted an oil exploration permit in 1998. Its rig arrived in the drilling area which Guyana maintains is in its exclusive economic zone on Thursday and was about to commence drilling when Suriname resorted to hostile action. The Surinamese action occurred while Presidents Jagdeo and Wijdenbosch and their two foreign ministers were in consultation about setting up a meeting to explore ways by which the issue could be resolved. That meeting was held in Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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