Oil rig must be allowed to return

Stabroek News
June 12, 2000

The Surinamese government and its political community must surely be aware that the only reason why emergency talks have been convened with Guyana at this country's urging is to achieve a speedy settlement on the status of the CGX oil rig.

As far as Guyana's interests are concerned the return of the CGX rig to its designated drilling spot is non-negotiable and this objective will be fervently clung to.

It is for this reason that the strident remarks issuing from the Surinamese government and from its politicians are hard to fathom. From these quarters have emanated statements claiming that Guyana is reneging on the understanding reached at the meeting last week in Trinidad by insisting that the CGX rig be allowed to reclaim its authorized location at the Eagle drilling spot. These statements from Paramaribo border on the illogical and betray an intent to frustrate Guyana's efforts to peaceably pursue the development of its natural resources.

The pivotal issue on the table before both sides is the fate of the CGX oil rig and it was within the ambit of these discussions that Guyana and Suriname agreed - as reflected in the joint communique - that a Joint Technical Committee would immediately embark upon settling the dispute over oil exploration concessions and in particular CGX's. If the return of the rig to its site is not in the offing what then is Guyana hoping to achieve at these expedited talks? The longer term issues of a general settlement on exploration in the contested maritime zone and a final definition of the boundaries between the two countries can be left in cold storage as they have been for many decades.

The gravamen of the matter is therefore the CGX rig and this is what Guyana's delegation has pointedly stressed. Given its own experience and dealings with the petroleum industry, Paramaribo must be acutely aware that its naked aggression directed at the CGX rig and the air of uncertainty that it has introduced over the return of the platform could derail this very important investment in Guyana's natural resources sector. CGX cannot wait indefinitely on the fringes of this investment while huge losses are incurred. Were this investment to be lost because of the deliberate attentuation of talks or equivocation on its part, Suriname would have seriously damaged relations with Guyana and would have shown rank ungratefulness in return for this country's support for its accession to CARICOM membership.

Just as Suriname has thrown the CGX investment into jeopardy the entire contested area can be destabilised quite easily by one or two gunboats and carefully orchestrated lobbying to the detriment of both countries.

If Paramaribo had been seriously concerned all along about the operations of CGX in this area, then surely it would have much earlier voiced its concerns and pursued the matter through diplomatic channels when the prospecting was first announced. Instead, it lured CGX into a false sense of security, lay in hiding and with great viciousness has sprung at exactly the point when the maximum pain could be inflicted on this country, the stability of its investment climate and on the investors. It has been a most unneighbourly and unsisterly act by Paramaribo that will not be easily disremembered.

We urge that better sense prevail at tomorrow's crucial meeting here. The Memorandum of Understanding as forwarded by Guyana offers a reasonable basis on which the two countries can move ahead with the equitable development of this potentially lucrative offshore area. None of this will materialise, however, unless Suriname does the honourable thing and recognizes CGX's right to prospect in this area as properly accorded by Guyana.

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