GUYANA 'S move to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to obtain provisional measures and a definitive settlement of maritime dispute with Suriname comes some 15 years after patient discussions with that country to arrive at an arrangement for the exploration and exploitation of natural resources in the area in dispute.
In a recent interview with Surinamese journalists, President Bharrat Jagdeo noted that efforts to resolve the dispute did not start in the aftermath of the forced eviction of the CGX oil rig in June 2000. The President recalled the many determined efforts made by Guyana to facilitate a bilateral agreement for the utilisation of the hydrocarbon resources in the disputed area.
President Jagdeo reminded the journalists that since 1989, the Presidents of Guyana and Suriname agreed that arrangements should be put in place for the joint utilisation of hydrocarbons in the area. This initiative was taken a step further with the signing in 1991 of a memorandum of understanding by the respective plenipotentiaries of Guyana and Suriname , Ambassadors Cedric Grant and John Kolader.
The objective of this memorandum of understanding was to operationalise the agreement arrived at by Presidents Desmond Hoyte and Ramsaywack Shankar. The Head of State noted that Suriname has steadfastly refused to honour these agreements. President Jagdeo stated that when the CGX incident occurred, Guyana again tried to settle the issue of the utilisation of the hydrocarbon resources peacefully and bilaterally, in spite of the aggressive action by Suriname .
"We had several meetings with Suriname - here in Guyana and in Trinidad and Tobago - that never yielded any results. We took the matter to CARICOM," the President said.
CARICOM Heads, at their Conference in St. Vincent , issued a statement urging the parties to reach some settlement or agreement at that level that would involve some sort of sharing of the hydrocarbon resources.
The recommendation of the Heads of the Caribbean Community was, in fact, consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which requires state parties to enter into provisional arrangements of a practical nature pending the final resolution of disputes. It was also in keeping with the agreement reached between the Heads of State of Guyana and Suriname in 1989 and the memorandum of, understanding signed between the two countries, in 1991.
Pointing to his continued efforts to arrive at a mutually satisfactory arrangement, at the bilateral level, to permit the utilisation of the resources in the offshore area, President Jagdeo recalled his State Visit to Suriname and highlighted the fact that he and his Surinamese counterpart had taken the decision to have the Border Commissions of the two countries confer on best practices and modalities for joint exploration in the area. The meetings of the Commissions did not result in any progress to facilitate joint activities in the area. The President alluded to the preconditions which Suriname sought to place on the discussions at the Joint Meetings of the Border Commissions, on joint activities.
Guyana 's position has been that any conditions for joint activities in the area must be consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and tried and tested modalities utilised around the world.
President Jagdeo emphasised that it was after these numerous efforts failed to yield progress on joint activities in the area, that Guyana, on February 24 last, invoked the dispute settlement mechanism of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to obtain obligatory provisional arrangements to facilitate the utilisation of the resources in the area and to definitively delimit the maritime boundary between Guyana and Suriname.
In the interview, the Guyanese President emphasised that this decision "came after 15 years of trying" to encourage Suriname to enter into arrangements of a practical nature