New Suriname government to assess failed oil rig talks
Monitoring of Corentyne river to ease - Venetiaan

by William Walker in Brasilia
Stabroek News
September 3, 2000

The newly elected Suriname government will start an evaluation process to assess the negotiations that occurred under the previous Suriname administration and will look to ease the strict monitoring of traffic across the Corentyne river.

Suriname President Ronald Venetiaan held a press conference on this and other matters in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, on Friday night. He described the bilateral talks only moments before with President Bharrat Jagdeo as having taken place in a good climate. Venetiaan noted that the two had talked a lot informally during the various gatherings of the 12 South American leaders attending the summit which concluded Friday afternoon.

Venetiaan said the recent reports of a landing of Suriname soldiers on August 24, at Scotsburg on the Corentyne was not an event to stir up anything between the two countries. He said from his knowledge the soldiers who were attempting to apprehend a Guyanese boat handled the matter in a peaceful and friendly way, contrary to reports in the Stabroek News.

He said the tensions surrounding "the unpleasant situation" of the removal of the CGX Energy Inc oil rig had led to the strict enforcement of the river by the Suriname military, which he said was "the power on the river" and also kept an eye on smuggling which was rife in both directions. Both sides had taken strong positions in the area he noted, but the government would look at the possibility of easing the situation so it returned to the more relaxed status quo. He bristled at the suggestion that the government was not in full control of the military.

As far as the talks to resolve the boundary issue were concerned, Venetiaan said the two governments had agreed to carry out an evaluation of the recent failed negotiations as part of "trying to make a fresh start." Efforts were also to be put in place to resuscitate the cooperation and border commissions.

He refuted the suggestion that the dispute was denigrating the two countries' standing in CARICOM, saying the member countries realised the need for a peaceful solution to the problem through the use of third parties such as Prime Minister of Jamaica, PJ Patterson. He said no date had been set for talks but there was a possibility that a meeting of CARICOM leaders with the Canadian government later this month might be a convenient forum.

Venetiaan, when asked about former leader Desi Bouterse being prosecuted for the 1982 murders of journalists and opposition politicians--"a fairly severe event" said it was not necessary to link this to any attempts to improve relations with its former colonial power, Holland. He said Bouterse, as leader at the time, may have later expressed responsibility for the murders. He said the new government will try to have the judicial system do an enquiry into the murders, though the government was not in a position to order the judiciary, as it was an independent body, but would do everything to have this case investigated along with the other cases of human rights violations. Earlier Venetiaan and Jagdeo had met at the Hotel Nacional for the bilateral talks down the corridor from the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

While the talks were in progress, Venezuelan officials were seen walking hurriedly down the hallway telling Suriname officials that Chavez was waiting for Venetiaan and enquiring when the meeting would be over. It was not clear what subjects Suriname and Venezuela subsequently discussed.

With the summit concluded, the atmosphere in the huge and modern capital is a little less frenetic. The x-ray machines have been removed from the lobbies of the big hotels, the federales no longer patrol the wide boulevards with machine guns to watch over the movement of diplomatic convoys.

Guyana's relatively small entourage including Ambassador to Brazil Cheryl Miles, Foreign Minister Clement Rohee and Ambassador to Venezuela Bayney Karran was driven around in a seven-car convoy with two police outriders, sirens blazing, clearing traffic ahead. The summit has been considered a huge success for host country Brazil which prides itself on maintaining strict protocol and being a courteous host.

Brasilia only became the nation's capital in 1960, removing that status with some protest from Rio De Janeiro, the much loved coastal city. The new capital was to be a Utopian dream creating a classless society.

The founding father, president Juscelino Kubitschek is revered in statues and monuments around the city. The design, which is in the shape of a plane was created by Lucio Costa and most of the government buildings were designed by famous architect Oscar Niemeyer in strikingly modern styles. It is not a city to stroll about and any travelling must be done by the numerous taxis.

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