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Regional News

September 22, 2007
Maritime award may open new era in Guyana's development - Sir Shridath
Stabroek News

The award of the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) may open a new era in Guyana 's development - economic and otherwise - which would bring new challenges but the country can benefit from models of best practices, Sir Shridath Ramphal says.

Speaking with the media at the NCN studios yesterday, Sir Shridath, Co-Agent for the legal team which represented Guyana in the maritime boundary dispute with Suriname, said that oil has been a mixed blessing where its gains are not sensitively managed. It was the eviction of an oil rig by Suriname from Guyana's waters that caused Guyana to approach the tribunal.

Not mentioning licensees granted concessions to prospect for oil in the area which has just been awarded to Guyana, Sir Shridath however said that using best practices available it was not "too early to prepare for the challenges it will bring" particularly in the field of oil exploration and exploitation.

Supporting President Bharrat Jagdeo statement that the tribunal's award was "just and erudite" he said that Guyana's claim was no trumped up one.

Adopting the equidistance principle from the outset of its evolution in international law, he said that in the course of their research while examining the archives of Guyana's oil concessions, they found Guyana had negotiated a concession to California Oil in 1957. As legal draftsman in the Attorney General's Chambers at the time, he drafted the licence and adopted as the eastern boundary an equidistance line closely approximating to the line the tribunal has now adopted.

He said, too, that in 1977 Guyana's maritime boundaries act asserted the equidistance principle that the tribunal has now upheld. "Of course, it is the same principle that Suriname is adopting in its eastern boundary with French Guiana ," he said.

On the award, Sir Shridath said that "very important principles were canvassed before the tribunal - on jurisdiction, on geography, on the threat of force, on the obligation of parties in dispute." On these and on more the award would be cited in many international laws.

In this regard, he said that Guyana has made a contribution to strengthening international law and the authority of the dispute settlement provisions of the Convention on the Law of the Sea. The authority of the dispute settlement, he said was an objective which Guyana declared to the tribunal from the start.

Speaking generally about what the award meant for Guyana and its people and offering commendations to all who were involved in the effort to bring the arbitral process to a successful conclusion for Guyana, the former Commonwealth Secretary General said that when the President authorized Guyana's approach to international arbitration in February 2004 Guyana was entering a new discipline. "The initiative was both bold and timely," he said adding that, "Yesterday (September 20, 2007) Guyana won 'Gold.'"

He said that it was a good day for Caricom and the rule of law while recalling the efforts of then Jamaican Prime Minister, PJ Patterson who tried to mediate the dispute.

The effort was a huge national and international one and he declared that Guyana would not forget the service of its non-Guyanese colleagues to the country.

Referring to the eviction of the CGX oil rig from Guyana's territorial waters in 2000, the award, he said, was a good reminder to the governments and people of the region that the only lasting path to the resolution of conflict was a lawful process and peaceful means.

With the theme of gratitude running through his remarks, Sir Shridath also thanked the members of the legal team, particularly the associates of New York law firm Foley Hoag - the staff of which were many - and others, many of whom visited Guyana over the past three and a half years.

He also thanked the minister and staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the many Guyanese public servants who assisted.

He said that at the end of other struggles other contestants invariably embrace each other with awareness of the more that unites them rather than the less that separates them and so it should be with Guyana and Suriname.

At the press conference the third Co-Agent Dr Payam Akhavan also spoke briefly noting that his tenure included a lot of "nerve wracking moments" poring through thousands of legal documents, the exceptional team spirit, friendship and bonds formed and the feeling that he now has an adopted home in Guyana said that in the future he would be "watching as Guyana's destiny unfolds in the coming years."

Insanally briefly recalled the process after the eviction of the CGX oil rig in June 2000 to the time Guyana invoked the relevant articles in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to resolve the boundary issue. (Miranda La Rose).

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