Two years on, solution to oil rig eviction still distant
Stabroek News
June 2, 2002

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Two years ago today, Surinamese gunboats unceremoniously evicted an oil rig owned by the Canadian company CGX Energy from its drilling position in Guyana's territorial waters.

Today, the Guyana government is no nearer to having the CGX rig return as it is unable to exercise unchallenged sovereignty over the area or to secure an agreement with Suriname.

When the talks broke down in 2000 after seven meetings across the Caribbean and with the eventual participation of CARICOM - of which both countries are members - to assist the two sides in reaching an agreement, Guyana was pressing for an accord on joint exploration and exploitation This was steadfastly rejected by the Jules Wijdenbosch administration in Paramaribo. However, after thirteen months in office, Wijdenbosch's successor, Ronald Venetiaan managed to nudge his party and coalition colleagues towards such an agreement. However, he tied it to the broader question of the territorial and maritime border dispute between the two countries. The return of the CGX rig was not specifically raised in the discussions.

During his visit to Suriname in January, President Bharrat Jagdeo and his host agreed to set up a sub-committee of the National Border Commissions to look at the best practices and modalities for joint exploitation and management of hydrocarbon resources in the disputed areas to assist the two sides in making their decision on the issue.

That committee was to make recommendations to the meeting of the National Border Commissions, which takes place later this month. The sub-committee should have met in May and the Border Commissions by mid-May.

The sub-committee eventually met on Friday. However, the most a Guyana Foreign Affairs Ministry official would say was that the discussions were cordial and frank and that the recommendations tabled at the meeting would be forwarded to the border commissions meeting.

Implementation of the other aspects of the January agreement, which includes extending cooperation over a vast range of areas, has been proceeding. A recent meeting between Customs officials of the two countries in Paramaribo was part of the implementation process.

But there are reports that there is an undercurrent of resistance to the implementation of the agreement. In a report of a meeting between representatives of BIDCO, Bermine and Alcoa to discuss the world bauxite situation, Alcoa reported the reluctance of Surinamese bauxite officials to Guyana's bauxite being used as a reserve for its operations in Suriname because of the border dispute between the two countries. Before and during President Jagdeo's visit in January, opposition forces held a number of public meetings criticising President Venetiaan's discussion of the border dispute.

The parliamentary parties opposed to the President Venetiaan moves stayed away from the special session of the Surinamese National Assembly that President Jagdeo addressed earlier this year.

Since the eviction of the CGX rig, Guyana has increased the capacity of the GDF Coast Guard in its maritime area and it reportedly has a more effective presence in the area.