President's visit to Suriname rescheduled By Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
January 20, 2002

THE State visit by President Bharrat Jagdeo to neighbouring Suriname has been rescheduled to January 28-29, Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally said yesterday.

He told the Chronicle that the rescheduling from January 31 was at the request of Suriname President Ronald Venetiaan and is to allow both Presidents to travel to the 13th Intersessional Meeting of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government in Belize on February 4-6.

Mr. Insanally, who returned home Friday from back-to-back meetings of the Guyana/Suriname Cooperation Council and the Guyana/Suriname Border Commission in Suriname, said the visit by his delegation provided a solid basis for the discussions between Presidents Jagdeo and Venetiaan, who now have a framework for their talks and the ability to identify and prioritise specific areas.

He said both countries will need to identify areas that are susceptible to immediate implementation and start to work towards the larger objective of building confidence and trust between the parties. It is important that the peoples of both countries see things working to their benefit, he added.

The mood of the Surinamese delegation during the meetings was "extremely friendly" and a new chapter has been opened in this country's relationship with Suriname, the Foreign Minister said.

"We have a duty to our peoples to work to ensure that these relations maintain a stable track and lead us toward the future."

The reactivating of the Cooperation Council and the Border Commission and dates for the discussions were agreed on during a visit here earlier this month by Suriname Foreign Minister, Ms. Marie Levens. It was agreed then too, that the meetings of the two bodies would be used to prepare the groundwork for the State visit by President Jagdeo to Suriname.

Insanally said he met President Venetiaan and the new Speaker of that country's National Assembly and was "impressed by the visionary approach" of both parties to some of the issues now on the agenda for both countries.

The Cooperation Council meeting covered a wide gamut of areas and common interests, including agriculture, environment, trade and police and immigration cooperation considering the increase of trans-boundary crimes.

"But there are so many commonalities between the two countries in terms of the topography, geography, resources, people, proximity, and the common problems and advantages from just being part of the Guyana Shield," he added.

He said the meeting emphasised that it was in the interest of both countries to focus on those commonalities, instead of dwelling on the issues that tend to separate, and they should find ways to address economic, social and border issues which have defied them in the past.

"I think with the Cooperation Council, the way has been paved towards very practical cooperation. We didn't talk about cooperation in the air, but rather, identified specific areas and both Minister Levens and I agreed that we will monitor the agreement so that it does not remain as a dead letter", Insanally said.

"It is not simply an archival document, but one that must be translated into action; so we have provided for mechanisms to review and reorient, if necessary, some of these areas."

Touching on the meeting of the Border Commission, the minister said while he and Levens were present, the discussions were co-chaired by Mr. Hans Lim-A-Po, a distinguished Surinamese lawyer and Attorney General, Mr. Doodnauth Singh.

Paying tribute to the Surinamese for responding to earlier suggestions, Insanally said the meeting agreed in principle to resume discussions on border and maritime issues that deal with the territorial sea and the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of both countries, and discuss and confirm "arrangements of a practical nature which could be implemented without prejudice to the positions of both countries, along with general border matters."

This means that both sides can now avail themselves of the resources, develop these to the benefit of both countries and their peoples, pending the resolve of some other issues, he explained.

Pointing out that the peoples of the two countries can't wait indefinitely for the development of the natural resources, Insanally said, "We have had problems in the past because of these divisive issues and we have been prevented from developing on both sides."

"...we must now try to engage our neighbours to see the value of cooperation for mutual benefit. It is not a one-sided system...we have to forget the past which left us with a lot of problems in terms of geographic borders and political borders. We'll have to go beyond that to cooperate and to use those resources while they are there."

He said the agreements reached "complement each other." "I see them as mutually reinforcing so that the Cooperation Council will perhaps have a positive impact on the work of the Border Commission and vice versa".

He identified as an example, the maritime resources over which there is some difference about what belongs to which country.

The mechanism now in place will allow both countries in a "peaceful and civilised" fashion, to find "arrangements of a practical nature that will allow for the exploration and exploitation of our resources now and not leave them suspended indefinitely", he said.

He said that both sides, especially in terms of the Border Commission, are challenged to come up with options and propose arrangements by April to allow for another meeting of the Border Commission in May.

In fisheries, he said the two countries have agreed that there is need for working together as there may be some issues of a specific nature that need to be settled. It is for this reason, for the particular areas of the exploitation of these resources, that the two bodies need to work in close conjunction, the Foreign Minister reiterated.

To this end, the discussions between Permanent Secretary in the Guyana Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock, Mr. Bowhan Balkaran and his Surinamese counterpart re-emphasised the need for establishing working groups in fisheries and all other areas where it was agreed that the two countries would work together.

Insanally said he and Levens agreed that fisheries was an important element for both countries and the working groups were necessary to discuss issues relating to licensing and catch, among other issues.

He said that in addition to the groups beginning "very concrete work" in the areas, as soon as necessary, there will be exchange of information and direct contact in the respective areas, to the extent that contact persons would be identified to facilitate such cooperation.

He said he and Levens will be in "close and continuing" contact, not only to monitor, but to resolve any problems that may surface.

And recalling that Suriname is to host CARIFESTA in 2003, he said it was important to ensure that Suriname, because of its different language, historical development and legal systems, was an integral part of the CARICOM family.

Insanally said that at the recent CARICOM Bureau meeting in the Turks and Caicos Islands, he raised the matter and members of the Bureau readily agreed that an outreach was needed.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham of The Bahamas is to head a delegation to see how the links between countries such as Suriname, Haiti and others, which traditionally have not been part of the English-speaking CARICOM area, can be strengthened.

It will have a beneficial effect in boosting the regional spirit and integration in relation to the wholeness of the region, he said.