Foreign Ministry focused on economic development - Rohee
Defends handling of border issues

Stabroek News
March 14, 2001

Foreign Minister Clement Rohee yesterday defended his ministry's handling of various border issues, saying a situation had never arisen where scarce resources were diverted to defend the country.

Rohee maintained at a press conference at Freedom House - the headquarters of the PPP/Civic - yesterday that relations with Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname "not withstanding.... CGX, illegal overflights, the Scottsburg incursion and garimpeiros" were tranquil. In June last year, an oil rig hired by the Canadian firm CGX to prospect in Guyana's waters was chased away by Surinamese gunboats. This was followed by overflights of Guyana's territory by Surinamese aircraft, aggressive patrolling by Paramaribo of the border Corentyne River and a landing by Surinamese troops on the Scottsurg foreshore.

The government, Rohee said, realised that the emphasis for the country must be on economic and social development as this directly affected the lives of ordinary citizens.

In the case of Suriname, Rohee said there was a need for patience with the negotiations over the disputed offshore territory. He said the framework for negotiations on how best to explore oil reserves in the area was already in place following the talks last summer. But with elections in Suriname, Guyana had allowed for the new government to "settle down." Suriname has since said it was not prepared to deal with the issue until after the March 19 elections here.

Rohee said the ministry was still studying the Caracas Energy Accord, which had caused controversy last year when it was hinted by Venezuela that Guyana was excluded from applying. Asked why it was taking so long, given that many countries had signed up and were already benefiting, Rohee said the document must be seen in the context of all issues with its neighbour.

Rohee said the ministry had come a long way in improving travel conditions for Guyanese in the Caribbean although Barbados still presented a problem. He called for the 'Guyanese bench' at the Grantley Adams airport to be removed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the last few years had successfully moved away from ideological priorities and towards economic diplomacy, Rohee said. The foreign missions had been retooled to become gateways for investors and the ministry would continue to strengthen its trade desks in order to attract investment to build the nation.