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Regional News

February 29, 2004
Move to World Court 'not a hasty act' - Insanally
Guyana Chronicle

FOREIGN Affairs Minister, Dr. Rudy Insanally has dispelled the notion that the decision by the government to take the maritime dispute with Guyana 's eastern neighbour , Suriname , to the Hamburg-based United Nations International Tribunal on the Convention of the Law of the Sea is not a –precipitate act.”

In a Government Information Agency (GINA) interview yesterday at the Guyana Television studios on Homestretch Avenue , Dr. Insanally reassured that contrary to what is felt in some quarters, the move was a well thought out and considered one being contemplated for about year now.

–It is not a hasty act” and –no adversarial action” is intended,” he said, adding that the International Tribunal is just –another window of opportunity” to resolve the dispute in the interest of the two countries which are both poor and members of the CARICOM family. Suriname 's admittance to the regional grouping was welcomed by Guyana , contrary to what many had anticipated.

The step Guyana has taken, the Foreign Minister stressed, has no –sinister” motive and is in accordance with the principles of international law to which both countries subscribe.

The international arbitral process gives no advantage to Guyana .

The Surinamese government has not officially responded to the move by Guyana as yet, but Dr. Insanally said it would obviously need some time to evaluate the situation before responding.

He is hopeful that the Surinamese would see the new step as being one intended to be of mutual benefit to both countries, as he is aware that Suriname itself has become –fatigued" and –impatient” with the bilateral negotiations which have been unsuccessful in resolving the dispute.

He noted that the peoples of both countries are existing side by side, and are involved in common and joint activities such as trade and commerce. He added that governments –cannot stifle the aspirations of people.”

The Foreign Affairs Minister, however, observed that the international arbitral process is not a quick one because of the complexities involved, and he estimating that the process might take as long as three years. He pointed out that it provides for provisional measures which would facilitate the contending parties to –make hay while the sun shines” pending the final settlement.

Taking the maritime dispute to an arbitral process does not mean that the bilateral process between the two countries has been abandoned, Dr. Insanally assured, pointing out that because of the failure of the joint Border Commission to successfully resolve the dispute, it was decided to resort to the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He further stated that he would like to see the bilateral mechanism resurrected, and is hopeful that the successful resolution of the maritime dispute through the international legal process would be beneficial in bringing to conclusion other existing aspects of the dispute.

Dr. Insanally explained that during the bilateral discussions, the two sides could not have arrived at a common position because of several factors including differing interpretations of their mandate and common language for the communiqué.

In order to get the arbitral process started, Suriname will now have to prepare and send their Statement of Claim to Hamburg , Dr. Insanally said.

Touching on the preparedness of Guyana to advance its case, Dr. Insanally said its team comprises a group of legal luminaries who have distinguished themselves at various international legal fora .

Guyana's legal team for these proceedings comprise former Foreign Affairs Minister Sir Shridath Ramphal , Mr. Paul Reichler of the Washington Law Firm of Foley Hoag, Dr. Payam Akhavan of Yale Law School and Professor Thomas Frank who served as an ad hoc judge at the International Court of Justice.

The Foreign Minister noted that Guyana's Statement of Claim has been sent to the Secretary General of the UN, Koffi Anan, and other relevant personalities as well, in addition to the President of the International Tribunal on the Convention of the Law of the Sea to which Guyana became the 60th signatory in its ratification.

He also disclosed that the Guyana High Commissioner in London has been asked to deliver the Statement of Claim in person in Hamburg and to become acquainted with the arbitral process.

The Government of Guyana officially notified the Suriname government on February 24 of its decision to request the intervention of the United Nations (UN) International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea based in Hamburg , Germany to give a binding decision on the existing maritime dispute between the two neighbours.

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