Manufacturers urge Jagdeo, Venetiaan to settle oil exploration issue
Stabroek News
September 27, 2001

The Guyana Manufacturers' Association (GMA) is calling on President Bharrat Jagdeo and Suriname's President Ronald Venetiaan to move forward on the issue of oil exploration off the Guyana/Suriname coast in the interest of the peoples of the two countries.

The association is also urging that an independent and acceptable arbitrator be appointed to settle the differences on the question of the ownership of the maritime zone in dispute.

In June last year, the Surinamese navy evicted an oil exploration rig hired by the Canadian company CGX from Guyana's waters. Suriname then claimed that the prospecting was taking place in its marine zone. Numerous rounds of bilaterals between Guyana and Suriname and talks under the aegis of a CARICOM facilitator failed to produce an agreement between the two countries. President Jagdeo is to visit Suriname later this year and the matter is expected to come up then.

In addressing the association's annual dinner and awards ceremony at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel on Friday evening, GMA president Norman McLean reiterated his call made a year ago at the last dinner that the Corentyne River should become a Zone of Cooperation and not one of conflict "whilst respecting the territorial integrity of the two countries."

He said "indeed, two of the important targets for our economic growth and development are oil and hydro-power and they demand our cooperation." Noting that while Suriname has some of both oil and hydro-electric power, that country's economy is in as critical a state as Guyana's.

Guyana, he noted, was in discussions with Suriname some time ago on the Kabalebo Hydro-Project off the Corentyne Coast. He urged the leadership of the two countries to re-examine that project and push ahead also with the oil exploration offshore the Corentyne River which would benefit both countries.

He said that at present both Guyana and Suriname, CARICOM countries, face common problems and it should not be too difficult to jointly explore avenues of economic cooperation for the good of both countries. Even while "we try to resolve our differences, let us start with our oil potential."

Noting that the Canadian Company CGX, which has invested large sums of money in oil exploration in Guyana's territorial waters, is now caught between the two countries, McLean suggested that both Jagdeo and Venetiaan sit down and find a solution to the problem.

More than a year has passed since the Suriname military forced the CGX oil rig out of Guyana's waters and the oil exploration ceased. Since then, McLean said, "there is little movement on a matter of such economic potential and importance."

On the question of the ownership of the territory, McLean, a former Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, said "let some independent and accepted arbitrator settle the differences."

He said there is obviously some differences in interpretation on where the line of division falls but that difference cannot be considered as insoluble between two neighbours if we remove the emotionalism and rhetoric and do not approach the issue with closed minds or pre-determined positions. (Miranda La Rose)