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Regional News

August 23, 2004
Guyana-Suriname maritime boundary dispute...Legal team upbeat on favourable settlement


The legal team spearheading Guyana 's case in the border dispute with Suriname at the Hamburg-based United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea has expressed satisfaction at the professional level with the way matters are proceeding.

Head of Guyana's legal team, Sir Shridath Ramphal, along two other members, Paul Reichler and Payam Akhavan, who are here to brief the government on the latest developments in proceedings into the case told the media that the "ball has started rolling" and the two sides have been cooperating in the process.

Mr. Ramphal said the first meeting of the Tribunal, which took place in London laid the ground rules under which the proceedings will take place establishing a sound basis for the arbitral process to move forward.

Guyana and Suriname are now to produce their memorial and counter memorial (a comprehensive statement of each side's case) following which there will be replies and counter replies, after which hearings into the case will begin.

The team said it is working hard to prepare Guyana 's case, and this involves consulting with a wide range of persons, who are directly and indirectly connected to the process. It expressed optimism that the dispute would be finally settled in the interest of both parties.

The decision of the Tribunal will be final and binding, ending uncertainty that, if allowed to continue, could be detrimental to the development of natural resources and the economic development of both countries, the team opined.

It was explained, however, that matters such as these take protracted periods to conclude but Guyana is hoping for and working toward an expeditious conclusion of the dispute.

The Government of Guyana officially notified Surinamese government on February 24 this year 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 boundary dispute between the two CARICOM neighbours.

Guyana submitted to Paramaribo a Statement of Claim outlining its case under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Following the decision by Guyana to move to the Tribunal, Guyana 's Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Rudy Insanally reassured that contrary to what was felt in some quarters, the move was a well thought-out one that had been contemplated for some time.

"It is not a hasty act" and "no adversarial action is intended," he remarked, adding that the International Tribunal is just "another window of opportunity" to resolve the dispute in the interest of both countries.

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 , and would benefit both countries, which are members of the CARICOM family.

He expressed optimism 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 had been unsuccessful in resolving the dispute. He noted that the peoples of both countries are existing side by side intermingling and being involved in common and joint activities such as trade and commerce, adding that governments "cannot stifle the aspirations of people."

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 in Hague.

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