Crucial oil rig talks on today Alibux, Snijders due

Stabroek News
June 13, 2000

The Surinamese delegation to the Joint Technical Committee meeting is to arrive at 7:30 am today by a special plane. The venue of the meeting, which will conclude tomorrow, is Herdmanston House at Lamaha and Peter Rose streets, Queenstown.

The team includes Suriname's acting Prime Minister, Errol Alibux and its Foreign Minister, Errol Snijders. Suriname's Ambassador to Guyana, Dr Humphrey Hasrat, had signalled on Sunday that either one or both of the ministers would have joined the team as a show of good faith.

The other members of the Surinamese delegation are Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Henk Alimahomed; senior officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eudya van Frederiklust-Kamp; Idris Taus of the Ministry of Natural Resources; Lt Col Jerry Slijngaard and J. Djojomoenawi of the Ministry of Defence; E. Fitz Jim Eric Tjon Kie Sim, and Borger Breeveld, advisers; and Carla Simons, translator.

Guyana's team to today's meeting will be same as that which Foreign Minister, Clement Rohee led to Trinidad but for the inclusion of former foreign minister in the PNC administration, Rashleigh Jackson as an adviser and former GDF Coast Guard commander, Gary Best, and the exclusion of Guyana's Ambassador to Suriname, Karshanjee Arjune, who has returned to his post. The other members of the team are Donald Abrams, Rudy Collins and Elizabeth Harper of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Brian Sucre and Newell Dennison of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission; Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Bhowan Balkarran; Technical Adviser, Ministry of Agriculture, R. Jaggarnauth; Col Chabilall Ramsaroop of the Guyana Defence Force and Dr Barton Scotland, as consultant.

Both Alibux and Snijders were at the first meeting last week in Trinidad which was convened at Guyana's initiative to explore ways of resolving the dispute which had flowed from Suriname's forced eviction on June 3, of the oil rig owned by CGX Energy Inc from its drilling location in Guyana's territorial waters. At that meeting Suriname undertook to indicate today to Guyana its decision about the steps which would have to be taken to allow the CGX oil rig to return to its drilling location in Guyana's territorial waters unhindered.

A release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that the Surinamese ministers are travelling to Guyana at Rohee's invitation. It said too that while here they would take the opportunity to pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Sam Hinds, who is performing the duties of president and to meet Rohee.

The meeting today flows from a decision taken last week in Port-of-Spain which recognises the need to simultaneously address the ongoing dispute on the border dispute as well as put in place arrangements to end the current dispute over the oil exploration concessions including the one granted to CGX.

The meeting according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs release will "discuss modalities for the treatment of the exploration and exploitation activities in the area of the North Eastern and North Western seaward boundaries of Guyana and Suriname respectively. It is expected that these modalities will also cover the concession granted to CGX Energy Inc."

The release said too that "Guyana remains committed to a peaceful resolution of the current situation with Suriname. It is hoped that the discussions over the two days will lead to a solution of the problem that will be acceptable to both Guyana and Suriname."

Guyana's proposals for the modalities are based on those contained in 1991 MOU, which the two countries signed to allow for oil exploration by a British oil company BHP-LASMO.

Meanwhile, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official yesterday confirmed the receipt of a diplomatic note from Suriname protesting the violation of its airspace.

A report in yesterday's edition of the English Language edition of the Suriname daily, De Ware Tijd said that the diplomatic note was sent to the Guyana government on Saturday. "The Surinamese government lodges a strong protest against the illegal entry of its territory by military aircraft, and thus violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity," the note reportedly said.

The note, according to De Ware Tijd, also demanded that Guyana stop the violations of Suriname's airspace and gave, as well, precise details of the days and times of the flights in question.

The De Ware Tijd report said that on Saturday, a Guyanese aircraft was sighted above the Corentyne River, Clarapolder and the airfield for the third day in a row.

The note also referred to the agreement reached in Trinidad to settle the dispute peacefully in the face of which "the aircraft were making provocative flights, even above inhabited communities in Nickerie," the newspaper said.

De Ware Tijd said that the Surinamese authorities pointed out in the note that "the Guyanese authorities had seriously jeopardized the good atmosphere of the ministerial talks and have violated Suriname's trust." The note also referred to a call by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to which both Guyana and Suriname belong, to settle the dispute through dialogue and a constructive approach, the newspaper said.

CARICOM Secretary-General, Edwin Carrington, visited Paramaribo yesterday for talks with Surinamese President, Jules Wijdenbosch, and De Ware Tijd quoted him as saying that he had "come to listen." The newspaper also quoted Carrington as saying that he thought both countries should do their utmost to break the impasse and if that failed, the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference could be of assistance.

Carrington told Stabroek News that a statement should have been issued by CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis Dr Denzil Douglas, but it was not issued as yesterday was a public holiday there.

However, Stabroek News received a statement by Dr Douglas from the secretariat yesterday, dated June 9, in which he said, "the community and its various institutions stand ready, within their capacity, to provide to the two parties whatever assistance they may require in the resolution of their current difficulties."

The statement which welcomed the resort to dialogue by the two countries also encouraged them to "avoid at all cost any escalation of the present tension." It also reminded them "of their responsibility to the community for the maintenance of peace and stability to which all member states are committed and in the absence of which the well-being of the people of the community can be so easily jeopardised."

Dr Douglas was advised about the dispute by President Bharrat Jagdeo in a letter dated June 3, and President Wijdenbosch was also reported to have informed the community about the dispute.

Rohee told a press conference earlier this month that the mechanism in place in CARICOM for dealing with the Guyana-Suriname border issue was that of the CARICOM Heads and the secretariat working together in an effort to contribute to a resolution of the issue. He said too that the mechanism had been invoked by Guyana when there had been undue delays in getting the Guyana-Suriname ferry project completed.

Meanwhile, during a discussion on the NBTV Channel 9 programme, University on Nine, in which he appeared with Jackson, Rohee said that the Guyana government had offered to provide CGX with a military escort for and a military presence on its rig but that CGX had declined the offer.

Asked by Stabroek News yesterday how this would have been accomplished, an army spokesman said that the army would have done as requested provided that it was given the necessary resources with which to carry out the task. A government source told this newspaper that the army would have been able to acquire whatever vessels were needed on hire from private sources to provide the escort and beef up its presence in the area.

A CGX spokesman explained to Stabroek News that the offer was not an option that would have been entertained by CGX which was just seeking to have the issue resolved by the two governments peacefully.

Follow the goings-on in Guyana
in Guyana Today