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Regional News

April 25, 2004
Legal fees for tribunal process could cost US$5M
Stabroek News

Guyana 's prosecution of its case before the arbitral tribunal appointed under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea could cost up to US$5 million in legal fees.

Suriname estimates that the legal fees could run to as much as US$10 million for both countries, exclusive of travel costs for the legal team and support personnel.

A Guyana government official has told Stabroek News that the cost could be approximately US$5 million. At his April 2, press conference, President Bharrat Jagdeo said that CGX , the Canada-based oil exploration company whose oil rig Surinamese navy boats forcibly ejected from its drilling position in Guyana 's exclusive economic zone, will meet part of the country's legal bill.

Sources knowledgeable about the process have told Stabroek News that the sum of US$1 million would have to be paid to the lawyers for the hearing of Guyana 's application for provisional measures. The provisions being sought include exploration for hydrocarbon resources in the disputed area and a ban on harassment by Suriname of Guyanese fishermen operating in the Corentyne River .

The remainder would be billed for the preparation of the substantive hearing of the case which officials hope could be decided in about three years' time, a not unrealistic estimation given that there are not many disputes to be decided under the process.

Guyana referred its maritime dispute for a legally binding decision under the UN arbitral process on February 24 and Jagdeo told Surinamese journalists, according to a Government Information Agency (GINA) release, that Guyana's decision to do so "came after 15 years" of trying to encourage Suriname to enter into arrangements of a practical nature to share the offshore resources.

The GINA release also said that in his conversation with the Surinamese journalists, Jagdeo referred to the agreement Guyana and Suriname had reached in 1989 that led to the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 1991, and pointed out that Suriname could not act as if the agreements did not exist and at the same time wish to benefit from provisions which it views as favourable to it.

It said Jagdeo reiterated that once Suriname abrogated the agreements, Guyana could not consider itself bound by them. This was in response to a question as to why Guyana issued a concession to CGX without consulting Suriname .

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