Guyana/Suriname border dispute festers

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) – Guyana has described as “regrettable” a recent statement by Suriname that the Tigri area, a huge, mineral-rich landmass in the south west section of the country doesn't belong Guyana.

Earlier this month, Suriname’s Foreign Minister Winston Lackin told the National Assembly that Guyana has been “making moves on the Tigri area for 40 years now.

“Tigri is Suriname territory, but as a developing country we have chosen for the path of diplomacy with as goal sustainable development for both our nations. We are convinced that a constructive solution is the best outcome,” he said.

Lackin said the dispute is a priority for President Desi Bouterse, and that Suriname and Guyana have established a committee that in the past three years has held four meetings about Tigri.

But Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett said Guyana’s position with regards the New River Triangle is very clear, that the area is part of Guyana’s territory.

She said in 1936, the Federative Republic of Brazil, the Dutch government at the time and British Guiana decided where the tri-junction point would be.

“If what is attributed to my Surinamese colleague is correct, then that is regrettable. Our two border commissions…have been meeting and those meetings are progressing very well, and we look forward to a favourable outcome in the not so distant future,” Rodrigues-Birkett said, adding that that while border issues are not resolved overnight, both commissions have been working.

Lackin’s insistence that Tigri belongs to Suriname comes a month after Guyana declined an invitation to take part in the International Mining, Energy & Petroleum Conference and Exhibition (SURIMEP 2014) that takes place in Paramaribo in June.

Guyana’s Natural Resources Minister Robert Persaud said Guyana withdrew because the Suriname map that was being circulated gave Suriname the New River Triangle.

Suriname considers the area part of the Coeroenie area of District Sipaliwini, whereas the Guyana considers it part of their East Berbice-Corentyne region, which it calls the New River Triangle.

Since 1969, Tigri has been under Guyanese rule, leaving the conflict simmering below the surface.

Rodrigues-Birkett said what is necessary now is for all Guyanese citizens “to be aware of Guyana’s borders, to be aware of Guyana’s size and shape and I think most of them are; and in this case we are very clear.

“But we are a peace loving country, as well, and we have always adhered to the principle of resolving borders in a peaceful manner,” she insisted.

“We went to the Commission on the Laws of the Sea to resolve our maritime border with Suriname. Our bilateral discussions with Suriname through the border commission are aimed at resolving the matter consistent with international law. This is the approach we will take,” the Foreign Minister said.

Meanwhile, Rodrigues-Birkett said regarding the border issue with Venezuela, an approach has to be made to the United Nations Secretary General regarding the process of selecting a Good Officer following the death of Jamaican academic, Professor Norman Girvan, who held the post.

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