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Regional News

September 23, 2008
Sir Shridath's Triumph for UNCLOS'to preserve 'the intellectual treasure'


GEORGETOWN, GUYANA - Eminent Guyanese statesman, Sir Shridath Ramphal, has launched his new work,Triumph for UNCLOS, exactly one year since Guyana won the long standing maritime border dispute with neighbouring Suriname.

Sir Shridath Ramphal autographs a copy of his title -“Triumph for UNCLOS (Adrian Narine photo)

The book is also coincidentally launched in celebration of Sir Shridath's 80th birthday anniversary to be celebrated on October 3.

The border issue between the South American nations came to prominence in 2000 when Suriname resorted to removing the licensed CGX oil exploration rig, C.E Thornton, operating within what Guyana has always claimed and the Tribunal confirmed to be Guyana's water.

That matter was settled in 2007 by the Arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) after a three year legal process.

The book was officially launched Saturday night by former Guyana Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Rudy Insanally, at Le Meriden Pegasus, and among those who graced the occasion were Acting President Samuel Hinds, several government ministers, representatives of the Judiciary and Bar Association of Guyana and the Diplomatic Corps.

The former University of Guyana Chancellor also formally presented a copy of the text to Prime Minister Samuel Hinds.

Addressing the gathering, Sir Ramphal said the text is a modest attempt to provide easy access, in readable form, to the complex issues and legal arguments in respect of the Guyana-Suriname Maritime Arbitration which, between 2004 and 2007, held the destiny of over 31,000 square kilometres of maritime space in suspense.

Sir Ramphal presents former Police Commissioner Mr. Laurie Lewis with a copy of the volume.

It was this potential for intellectual treasure to be lost that moved me to undertake this compilation and commentary. I hope the book brings to light and preserves at least some of the considerable scholarship that has been generated, he explained.

The title also touches on the dispute between Britain and Holland as the metropoles of Guyana and Suriname and then the neighbours themselves as they became independent.

It explains the process of peaceful settlement in 2007 through the arbitration and the triumph of UNCLOS in enabling it.

In essence, the book is a story of over four centuries from Sir Walter Raleigh and the Wild Guiana coast to the ascendancy of the legal regime of the seas that UNCLOS represents.

The former Attorney General here and Commonwealth Secretary General pointed out that most international disputes are remembered in terms of winners and losers, although judgments are seldom that simple.

In this case, Guyana won all its core issues but the thesis of this book is that the real winner was the system of international law that brought the two countries to the Arbitral Tribunal and to the peaceful resolution of a dispute which threatened to freeze the maritime development of this very large area-and its potentially rich resources, Sir Ramphal noted.

A section of the audience Saturday evening at the launching of Triumph for UNCLOS;.

Hence the title of the book Triumph for UNCLOS - triumph for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and triumph for the rule of law in the world's maritime areas,he emphasised.

The diplomat and internationalist stressed that the outcome of the Arbitration is fundamental to both Guyana and Suriname, strengthening the legal regime of the seas of all states that the Convention on the Law of the Sea constitutes.

There would have been no book without the arbitration, and Guyana’s wise internationalism in initiating it deserves particular credit. Both political parties in Guyana supported the arbitral process and both declared their satisfaction with the outcome, he stated.

Sir Ramphal also noted that those associated with presenting the Guyana Claim would have specially acknowledged the consistent involvement and ardent support of President Bharrat Jagdeo over the three and a half years of unremitting effort.

So too, the commitment to that effort of CGX Resources Inc.- now CGX Energy Inc.- Canadian oil exploration company, as the direct victim of the events that led to arbitration under UNCLOS.

Dr Insanally, who was the Guyana Foreign Affairs Minister at the time, said the UNCLOS was agreed to in 1982 after 14 years of dedicated work by its framers from more than 150 countries.

The convention, he noted, was signed by 117 countries the day it was opened for signature at Montego Bay in Jamaica, but he pointed out that Guyana's ratification ultimately brought it into force.

The well-attended launching was chaired by Sir Ramphal’s friend of more than three decades, Mr. Bryn Pollard.

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