Inter-Guianas conference ends
More in-depth research on key issues recommended By Linda Rutherford
Guyana Chronicle
October 27, 2002

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The need for more in-depth research into such issues as the 'Westminster Model' of governance and its continued applicability in the Guianas, the decentralisation of power and Amerindian Rights and policies, is among some 29 recommendations tabled at the just-concluded Fifth Inter-Guianas Conference.

Hosted by the Inter-Guianas University Partnership (IGUP) which comprises the University of Guyana (UG) and the Anton de Kom University of Suriname under the theme, 'Building Capacity to Meet the Emerging Challenges in the Guianas', the four-day caucus, which began last Wednesday, addressed the broader aspects of 'Government and Politics in the Guianas'; 'Economic' and 'Social' Issues in the Guianas'; 'Agriculture, Forestry and Mining in the Guianas'; 'Environment and Sustainable Development in the Guianas'; and 'Health and Medicinal Plants Issues in the Guianas'.

Presentations under the heading 'Government and Politics', for instance, looked at the question of 'Westminster and the Consociational Political Systems in Multi-ethnic Caribbean Societies'; 'Democracy, Protest and Race in Guyana's Politics'; and 'Guyana/Suriname Relations in a Changing Global Environment'.

Giving a summary of what transpired over the period at the closing ceremony Friday on campus at the Education Lecture Theatre (ELT) where the conference was held, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences (UG), Dr. Mark Kirton, who is also Co-Chairman of the IGUP Conference Committee, noted that 39 papers were presented, and that sessions were not only productive but also generated much discussion and dialogue.

He noted, also, that there was a noticeable "convergence of research interests" particularly in the areas where there was similarity in the challenges facing both Guyana and Suriname.

He said that it was the view of the Committee that the more pressing among those recommendations ought to be brought urgently to the attention of the policy makers both here and in neighbouring Suriname so that they can discuss them further among themselves and possibly implement them.

"I think that it is up to us, as the academic community, to be proactive; to continue research; to identify areas of joint research activity and operationalise those activities so that, at the end of the day, we would have made a significant contribution to our countries' development," he said.

Presenters have until November 30 to rework their papers so as to have them ready for the launching of that and two other related publications on February 23, 2003.

In closing, Kirton expressed the hope that the next conference, which is billed for Suriname in 2004, will have the wider participation of all the countries in the Guiana Shield.

Leader of the Surinamese delegation and IGUP Co-Chair, Dr Maurits Hassankhan, who presented a paper on 'Consociational Democracy in Suriname: Retrospects and Prospects' at the conference, noted the uniqueness of the cooperation between the two universities and wished that our two governments would take their lead in resolving our long-standing border conflict.

"In my experience," he said, "we have never had any conflict with each other; I think that is a unique situation. Always, when we work with each other, there is a sphere of harmony; a sphere of understanding each other."

"I think that could be an example for other people [to follow], especially our governments... because we have problems in the case of our boundary. If we work in this sphere, with this attitude, I think we can solve all our problems and challenges."

Noting also that there was a moment back in Suriname while preparing to come for the conference when he and members of his delegation were beseeched by friends and colleagues not to come to Guyana because of the crime situation, Hassankhan said: "I thank my colleagues who took the risk and came; we are very happy that we came. From the moment we arrived at the Corentyne, we felt very safe. The hospitality was enormous."