Ministry of Foreign Affairs - EDITORIALS and LETTERS

June 14, 2000



JUNE 18, 2000

It is with a deep sense of disappointment and sadness that Guyana leaves Suriname without reaching any agreement with the Surinamese authorities on the controversy that has arisen due to the forced removal of the CGX rig from its original location in Guyana’s maritime boundary on Saturday June 3, 2000.

This situation will undoubtedly leave a bitter taste in the mouths of all Guyanese people having been deprived by their neighbour of a vital opportunity to enjoy the benefits from a major investment which would have contributed substantially to the economic and social development of Guyana.

Eleven years ago, having recognised from both a historical and contemporary standpoint that the area in dispute has potential for problems, Suriname and Guyana drew up a road map indicating the way forward for a peaceful resolution of the dispute and for the joint utilization of the resources to the benefit of the two countries.

Unfortunately, due to a combination of factors both of an external and internal nature, and further, notwithstanding the persistent efforts by Guyana to proceed together with Suriname on the path to cooperation and development, many obstacles were placed along the way without any significant progress being made.

Guyana has always extended a hand of friendship and cooperation to Suriname. The highpoint of this disposition was the statesmanlike and generous stand taken by Guyana at the Sixth Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community held in Belize in 1995 under the Chairmanship of the then late President Dr Cheddi Jagan, when Guyana declared its support to admit Suriname as a full member of the Community.

Moreover, Guyana’s persistent efforts, its proactive and supportive role in the Guyana/Suriname Cooperation Council, the Guyana Suriname National Border Commissions, and the Guyana Suriname Multidisciplinary Technical Team are all living testimony to Guyana’s commitment to deepen functional cooperation with Suriname.

It is indeed regrettable that Suriname as a member of the United Nations, the Organisation of American States, the Association of Caribbean States, the Caribbean Community, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of 77 and China, the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group, the Treaty of Amazonian Cooperation and the Organisation of Islamic States would adopt such an obstructionist stand against Guyana a sister neighbouring state, who like Suriname, is making every effort to reduce poverty, create more jobs and raise the standard of living of their people.

Moreover, for Suriname to justify the use of force to settle a dispute with its neighbour and further, to view the forced eviction of the CGX rig as an act of revenge in light of and in response to the action taken in 1969 by Guyana in removing a number of civilian and military personnel occupying that part of the territory of Guyana known as the New River Triangle is to add insult to injury.

It is incontrovertible that the New River Triangle has always been within the boundaries of Guyana and under the sovereignty of the Government of Guyana and this was repeatedly acknowledged to be so by the Government of the Netherlands.

Ever since, these talks began, Guyana adopted a firm but flexible approach based on friendship, cooperation and mutual respect. In this regard, we have made a number of constructive proposals at every stage of these negotiations. Among those proposals were:

  1. that the two sides return to the spirit of the Hoyte/Shankar Agreement, the Jackson/Sedoc Agreed Minutes and the Kolader/Grant Memorandum of Understanding which together created the environment and the prospects not only for a peaceful resolution to a potential area for problems but also for the joint utilization of the resources in the area of dispute for the benefit of both the Surinamese and Guyanese people.
  2. placing the settlement of our maritime border dispute on the fast track.
  3. reactivating the Joint Meetings of the National Border Commission of Guyana and Suriname and the Guyana/Suriname Cooperation Council.
  4. The official designation by both Suriname and Guyana of the disputed area as a Special Zone for Sustainable Development to be jointly managed by a Guyana/Suriname Mixed Authority to jointly manage and exploit the disputed resources in the area for the mutual benefit of the two countries pending the settlement of our maritime boundaries by peaceful means. Both Governments may wish to include representatives of Regional or International Institutions to serve on the Authority.
Up to the time of speaking, we have not had any positive response to these proposals. What we keep hearing ad nauseum is that "these issues are very complex and that they need to be studied".

Further we wish to place on record that to date Guyana is still awaiting a clear and unambiguous response from the Government of Suriname about its request to have the rig return to its position at Eagle.

Suriname’s response by submitting a counter-proposal demanding that Guyana abandons its licence granted to CGX Resources Inc. and that Suriname in turn, will issue the licence is totally unacceptable and in effect would mean the following:

  1. placing the CGX investment effectively in the hands of the Surinamese authorities and leaving Guyana out in the cold.
  2. Surrendering our territorial claim to the maritime area in dispute
  3. De-recognising our official maritime boundary and Boundary Act of 1977
  4. Weakening our case legally should Guyana chose in the future to seek recourse to international arbitration to settle its Maritime boundary.
The Guyanese people will find great discomfort with any arrangement which compromises their country’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty. Indeed such a proposal does not help to heal the hurt which our people felt when Suriname used gun boats to achieve an objective, an objective which could have been achieved through a negotiated settlement.

It has therefore now become clear that Suriname has no intention to facilitate the return of the rig to its original location. In fact, every attempt has been made to introduce a host of issues which have no direct relevance to the incident associated with the rig and its forced removal from within Guyana’s maritime jurisdiction.

Further, we have recognized and experienced what was an all out attempt to drag out these talks with the aim of frustrating CGX Resources Inc. and eventually forcing them to walk away from the investment.

Further, we would like to place on record our deep disappointment as regards the methodology used for discussing a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) non-paper submitted for consideration by the Surinamese side yesterday, June 17 2000.

The Surinamese side submitted the first draft of the said document at approximately 5.00 p.m yesterday afternoon. After the Guyana delegation submitted their amendments to the document, the Surinamese side then called for an adjournment at approximately 7.30 p.m. indicating that they would need to consult on Guyana’s recommendations claiming that those recommendations ‘deviated’ from the draft non paper.

At 9.30 p.m, during a visit from Ministers Alibux and Snijders, I received a copy of a document which I later understood was a second draft of the first non paper. I later discovered that my delegation never saw this second draft. That was about 10.45 p.m.

I requested time of the Ministers to consult with my delegation on the matter. In the course of that consultation, we drew up a number of comments and amendments to that document. Approximately one hour later, Ministers Alibux and Snijders visited me once again. The purpose was to receive my comments and amendments to the document they had handed to me. Instead however, there was little or no discussion on the substance of the proposals from either side took place, but rather a new proposal was made by the Surinamese side for the matter to be taken for discussion at the highest political level. It has now become obvious that these matters cannot be pursued further, much less resolved at this Ministerial level.

We hope that Suriname has weighed carefully the implications of not allowing this body to exhaust its efforts to the fullest to arrive at conclusions and decisions on those matters that have been with us for several days.

Now that we have come to the end of our mandate in the context of the outside date which Guyana set itself for a solution to the problem I wish on behalf of the Government of Guyana to make it clear that the failure to resolve the matter to the mutual satisfaction of the two sides will neither frustrate nor weaken Guyana’s resolve to achieve its goals.

In this regard, Guyana takes this opportunity to alert Suriname to the fact that having exerted every effort towards a search for a peaceful solution to the problem we have no alternative but to seek recourse to other appropriate processes to find a solution to the matter before us.

The people of Guyana are a peaceful people committed to the development of their country and the advancement of the welfare of their society.

We will continue to strive for good neighbourly relations with all our neighbours, Brazil, Venezuela and Suriname. These relations should be conducted on the basis of understanding and mutual respect. However, no one should assume or encourage others to assume that the Guyanese people shall be anything less than resolute in maintaining their territorial integrity.

As His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana has stated: "my Government stands firm on the maintenance of Guyana’s sovereignty. It will take whatever action necessary to preserve and protect its territorial integrity".

The delegation of Guyana wishes to express its sincere appreciation for the hospitality extended by the Government of Suriname during its stay in Paramaribo.

We leave Suriname with mixed feelings but with the expectation that at some time in the future our mutual interests will blend into a harmonious engagement through which our peoples will live forever in peace and harmony.




A week last Saturday, Suriname gunboats forced an oilrig which had been hired by the Canadian based CGX Company and which was operating in Guyana’s territorial waters to move. It was a hostile act which was in contravention of international norms and law. In addition, it was an act calculated to cause Guyana- not to mention CGX – the maximum amount of economic damage. The company after all had been granted a licence as far back as 1998 and had explored in the contested area without a squeak of protest from our neighbour. Furthermore, according to CGX, only last year while it was prospecting in the same locale, it had sought and been granted permission by Suriname to turn its ship five miles into that country’s recognized maritime zone for a period lasting over six weeks. So much for good neighbourly relations and peace on our borders.

It might be noted in passing that oil exploration licences have been issued before by Guyana for what is now being called the area of overlap. In fact there was drilling there in 1974-75, which again produced no protest from Suriname. So what, the Guyanese people must be wondering, has triggered this unto ward about of aggression from our neighbour to the east?

In the first instance it has to be recognized that there is no formal treaty covering this border, and it is not, therefore, in quite the same category as the western boundary which was fixed by an international arbitral tribunal in 1899. This does not mean to say that Suriname has right on he side or even, for that matter, international law on her side, but it does mean that there is wiggle room for dispute.

At the bottom of the problem is quite simply that the line accepted by Guyana as dividing the mouth of the Corentyne and the continental shelf between the two territories is not accepted by Suriname, although both agree that the point of departure for their lines is the western bank of the Corentyne river in the vicinity of No. 61 village. Suriname’s line runs close to our coast and it is the roughly triangular space between that and Guyana’s line which is being contested. Suriname’s line – ten degrees east of true north – has its origins in a draft treaty between the Netherlands and Britain for settling the whole boundary which dates back to 1936. Under the terms of that draft the New River Triangle was to go to Guyana, the whole of the Corentyne River to Suriname and the territorial sea was to be divided on the basis of the co-ordinate cited above. In pursuance of the eventual implementation of this draft treaty, two concrete markers were laid down near No. 61 village.

There are problems, however, with Suriname’s position. In the first place, the treaty was never signed because the Second World War intervened, and efforts to reach an agreement in the colonial period after the war as well as since independence did not bear fruit.

Quite simply, therefore, Suriname’s line is a unilateral one. Secondly, the draft treaty of 1936 awarded the New River Triangle to Guyana, but now we have Suriname claiming the whole of the Corentyne, the maritime line of 1936 and the New River Triangle.

Furthermore, the boundary experts of the 1930s knew nothing of the concept of what we would now call Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ); considerations relating to the continental shelf were something which were only to be introduced into global maritime thinking after World War Two. The 1936 line, therefore, was intended to apply to a territorial sea of very limited extent.

And what about Guyana’s line? Guyana’s maritime frontier – 33 degrees east of true north-is in harmony with the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention which applies a principle of equidistance where there is no established maritime boundary. According to the Mirror of June 7, 2000, Suriname has rejected Article 15 of this convention, showing "blatant disrespect for international covenants". In addition, the media have been informed about a 1991 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries, which provides for the exploitation of petroleum resources for the benefit of both pending a resolution of the border dispute, although there are claims from the other side of the Corentyne that this was never ratified by the Surinamese Parliament.

Suriname is causing trouble now because she is in a position to do so, and she hopes to gain some economic, if not eventually some territorial advantage out of it. While Guyana has had no official presence on the Corentyne for years, and has demonstrated her inability to protect her interests there, Suriname in contrast has been flexing her muscles on the river.

Whether Suriname has overplayed her hand in the long term, however, remains to be seen. A CGX statement issued last Thursday warned that elements in the international investment community were watching developments closely. If CGX withdraws, and the Corentyne acquires a reputation for instability, investors will be frightened away from the Entire River mouth and contiguous zones, and she will end up paying the same economic price as Guyana.



Oil rig must be allowed to return

The Suriname government and its political community must surely be aware that the only reason why emergency talks have been convened with Guyana at this country’s urging is to achieve a speedy settlement on the status of the CGX oil rig.

As far as Guyana’s interests are concerned the return of the CGX rig to its designated drilling spot is non-negotiable and this objective will be fervently clung to.

It is for this reason that the strident remarks issuing from the Surinamese government and from its politicians are hard to fathom. From these quarters have emanated statements claiming that Guyana is reneging on the understanding reached at the meeting last week in Trinidad by insisting that the CGX rig be allowed to reclaim its authorized location at the Eagle drilling spot. These statements from Paramaribo border on the illogical and betray an intent to frustrate Guyana’s efforts to peaceably pursue the development of its natural resources.

The pivotal issue on the table before both sides is the fate of the CGX oil rig and it was within the ambit of these discussions that Guyana and Suriname agreed – as reflected in the joint communique – that a Joint Technical Committee would immediately embark upon settling the dispute over oil exploration concessions and in particular CGX’s. If the return of the rig to its site is not in the offing what then is Guyana hoping to achieve at these expedited talks? The longer-term issues of a general settlement on exploration in the contested maritime zone and a final definition of the boundaries between the two countries can be left in cold storage as they have been for many decades.

The gravamen of the matter is therefore the CGX rig and this is what Guyana’s delegation has pointedly stressed. Given its own experience and dealings with the petroleum industry, Paramaribo must be acutely aware that its naked aggression directed at the CGX rig and the air of uncertainty that it has introduced over the return of the platform could derail this very important investment in Guyana’s natural resources sector. CGX cannot wait indefinitely on the fringes of this investment while huge losses are incurred. Were this investment to be lost because of the deliberate attenuation of talks or equivocation on its part, Suriname would have seriously damaged relations with Guyana and would have shown rank ungratefulness in return for this country’s support for its accession to CARICOM membership.

Just as Suriname has thrown the CGX investment into jeopardy the entire contested area can be destabilised quite easily by one or two gunboats and carefully orchestrated lobbying to the detriment of both countries.

If Paramaribo had been seriously concerned all along about the operations of CGX in this area, then surely it would have much earlier voiced its concerns and pursued the matter through diplomatic channels when the prospecting was first announced. Instead, it lured CGX into a false sense of security, lay in hiding and with great viciousness has sprung at exactly the point when the maximum pain could be inflicted on this country, the stability of its investment climate and on the investors. It has been a most unneighbourly and unsisterly act by Paramaribo that will not be easily disremembered.

We urge that better sense prevail at tomorrow’s crucial meeting here. The Memorandum of Understanding as forwarded by Guyana offers a reasonable basis on which the two countries can move ahead with the equitable development of this potentially lucrative offshore area. None of this will materialise, however, unless Suriname does the honourable thing and recognizes CGX’s right to prospect in this area properly accorded by Guyana.

Guyana CHRONICLE JUNE 13, 2000


Trinidad and Tobago is once again the place of choice for Guyana and its border neighbours to discuss their territorial disputes at moments of crisis.

Last week, amid nervous tensions in Georgetown and Paramaribo, high level ministerial delegations, well served by experienced technocrats, met privately at Cascadia Hotel in St Ann’s to discuss an issue of emergency.

It had to do with Surinamese naval patrol boats engaging in a surprising act of gunboat diplomacy by arbitrarily forcing a Canadian-owned oil company, CGX Energy Inc, to pull up a rig from where it had been granted a licence by Guyana for oil exploration, and shifting to another location.

The Guyanese authority was apparently caught by surprise, since the border neighbours have been maintaining good relations; both are members of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), and have mechanisms in place to address ongoing concerns about their historical, colonial-inherited territorial dispute.

Consequently, Guyana sprang into diplomatic offensive, alerting Caricom, the Organisation of American States and also the United Nations as it engaged in some fighting rhetoric of its own to counter that of Suriname, where a new government is yet to be formed some 17 days after new general elections.

But it was the keen desire to meet quickly and peacefully resolve the dispute arising from the forced removal, at gunpoint, of CGX Energy Inc, from its base of oil drilling operations, that resulted in the Surinamese and Guyanese delegations opting for neutral territory to deal with the immediate problem.

Trinidad and Tobago, coincidentally, one of the three major plural or dual societies of the Caricom region, the others being Guyana and Suriname, quickly became the venue of choice.

This development revived memories of what happened some 30 years ago this very month when, in an effort to defuse renewed conflict over Venezuela’s claim to approximately two-thirds of Guyana’s 83,000 square miles, Trinidad and Tobago was the mutually agreed venue for a meeting between top-level representatives of the two neighbouring countries to find a solution, however temporary.

The meeting was officially hosted and chaired by then Prime Minister, Dr Eric Williams. Compared with last week’s quiet meeting between Guyana and Suriname, the June 1970 meeting between Guyana and Venezuela had attracted much media and public attention.

It resulted in what came to be known as "The Protocol of Port-of-Spain" that effectively froze the dispute for a dozen years, with neither side resorting to acts of aggression, while efforts continued for a more long-term and practical resolution.

The quest continuing even now under the guidance of the Secretary General of the United Nations.

This time around, while Prime Minister Basdeo Panday’s government did not play any official part, it is known to have readily agreed for Trinidad and Tobago to be the venue for two of its friendly regional partners to discuss their problems and find a solution.

Last week’s meeting settled for the creation of a special technical committee to specifically address the issue of the action taken by the Surinamese gunboats against CGX Energy, while the old territorial dispute in the New River Triangle in the Corentyne region, which both countries inherited at independence, will continue to be peacefully examined at a higher and wider level.

Trinidad and Tobago could only hope that, as Guyana and Suriname diligently seek a peaceful resolution to their old territorial dispute, there will be no recurrence of what happened in the case of CGX whose licence was issued for oil exploration in what is still legally recognised as Guyana’s territory.

Latest news out of Paramaribo and Georgetown suggest that the Surinamese authorities will permit the return of CGX to its original drilling operations site within the next 48 hours.

Faced, as they do with serious social and economic problems, not to mention political divisions, neither Guyana nor Suriname can afford to dissipate very limited resources in military conflicts.

Peace, not conflict, therefore, is the only option.

(From yesterday’s Trinidad Guardian)

Guyana CHRONICLE JUNE 14, 2000



The news that former Foreign Minister, Mr. Rashleigh Jackson is on the Guyana team for the talks that started here yesterday with Suriname on the border dispute has been welcomed by many.

ITT’s the kind of positive sign Guyanese have been longing for amid the seemingly endless and sometimes bitter squabbles that dogs the political situation.

It shows that the political differences are not as deeply entrenched as to keep parties apart on crucial national issues.

And in that there is much comfort. The two main parties, the governing People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/Civic) and the opposition People’s National Congress (PNC) in spite of regular structured encounters, always seem to be at loggerheads and in distant camps.

And the barbs are constantly thrown back and forth between them seemingly only for scoring political points.

Sometimes there is worth in the criticisms but it is mostly a fruitless exercise, to the exasperation of others more interested in improving the political dialogue and culture in this country.

Now on a national issue, a former PNC Foreign Minister has agreed to be on the official government team for talks involving a territorial dispute with Suriname.

President Bharrat Jagdeo, at his press conference on the dispute last week, noted that Guyanese are united on issues of territorial integrity and said that his government will use the best technical minds available. Bringing in Mr. Jackson proves the point.

As the talks were about to begin at Herdmanston House in Georgetown yesterday morning, Mr. Jackson told us he was invited to be on the delegation.

He is there as an advisor.

"The issue is a national issue and therefore I am happy to participate on the terms and conditions which are agreed.

It’s part of a public service and I hope it will be rewarding and helpful to the Minister (Rohee) in terms of reaching a successful conclusion," he said.

The involvement of Mr. Jackson at such a level with the government has triggered interest outside of Guyana.

It has made news in the Caribbean and the impact has not been lost on those in the region following events here.

Whether the inclusion of Mr. Jackson in the Guyana Government delegation for these crucial talks with Suriname marks a fresh turn in the political landscape here remains to be seen.

However, the move by itself has stirred fresh hopes for narrowing the rather unfortunate divide that has for too long kept the people of this country uncomfortable.

Good move, Mr. Rohee.


The Law of the Sea is intended to bring peace between nations

Dear Editor,

For those pundits of the use of force in the oil rig dispute I would like to quote from the preamble of the UN Law of the Sea this law was promulgated to bring peace between nations, not hostility.

"The States Parties to this Convention.

Prompted by the desire to settle in a spirit of mutual understanding and Cooperation, all issues relating to the law of the sea and aware of the historic significance of this Convention as an important contribution to the maintenance of peace, justice and progress for all peoples of the world.

"Nothing that developments since the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea held at Geneva in 1958 and 1960 have accentuated the need for a new and general acceptable Convention on the law of the sea.

"Conscious that the problems of ocean space are closely interrelated and need to be considered as a whole.

"Recognizing the desirability of establishing through this convention with due regard for the sovereignty of all States, a legal order for the seas and oceans which will facilitate international communication, and will promote the peaceful uses of the seas and oceans, the equitable and efficient utilization of their resources, the conservation of their living resources, and the study, protection and preservation of the marine environment.

"Bearing in mind that the achievement of these goals will contribute to the realization of a just and equitable international economic order which takes into account the interests and needs of mankind as a whole and in particular, the special interests and needs of developing countries, whether coastal or land-locked.

"Desiring by this Convention to develop the principles embodied in resolution 2749 (XXV) of 17 December 1970 in which the General Assembly of the United Nations solemnly declared inter ail that the area of the seabed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of national jurisdiction as well as its resources, are the common heritage of mankind, the exploration and exploitation of which shall be carried out for the benefit of mankind as a whole irrespective of the geographical location of States".

"Believing that the codification and progressive development of the law of the sea achieved in this Convention will contribute to the strengthening of peace, security Cooperation and friendly relations among all nations in conformity with the principles of justice and equal rights and will promote the economic and social advancement of all peoples of the world, in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations as set forth in the Charter.

"Affirming that matters not regulated by this Convention continue to be governed by the rules and principles of general international law.

Have agreed as follows:" Here follows the Law which can be read at

Guyana CHRONICLE JUNE 16, 2000


CARICOM in Suriname-Guyana row

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has intervened, with an appeal for peaceful dialogue, in the current territorial dispute between Suriname and Guyana over the oil exploration (offshore) by a Canadian-owned company.

The appeal by CARICOM’s Chairman, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts and Nevis, followed separate briefing sessions over the weekend with the Community’s Secretary-General, Edwin Carrington, by the governments of Guyana and Suriname, both member states of CARICOM.

CARICOM would, however, be aware that while as it has reminded both parties have a responsibility to avoid any escalation of the present tension, the resumption of oil drilling exploration at the designated area by the Canadian-owned CGX Energy Inc, seems an essential requirement for the dialogue process to proceed on the basis of existing internationally recognised boundaries.

The company has been engaging in oil exploration activities in the Corentyne River since 1998, in accordance with an authorised concession obtained from the Guyana Government in what is recognised as Guyanese territorial jurisdiction.

The two countries have a colonial-inherited century old territorial dispute that has occasionally erupted into controversy, once into military conflict, back in 1969 when the Guyana Defence Force evicted a group of Surinamese soldiers from the New River triangle in the Corentyne.

What is particularly disturbing about the current dispute resulting from the forced eviction on June 3 by two Surinamese gunboats of CGX Energy from its drilling site, is that was no prior objection from Suriname to Guyana.

Further, it was a surprising and hostile development that followed the outcome of new general elections on May 25. The election has left a caretaker administration in place while efforts continue to form a new coalition government under the leadership of former President Ronald Venetiaan.

Both outgoing President Jules Wijdenbosch and President – designate Venetiaan, like Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo, have been emphasising the need for peaceful dialogue.

The question, therefore, since there exists a 1991 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries for oil exploration (off) the Corentyne, without prejudice to the age-old territorial dispute, is why was the CGX drilling operation disrupted in a baffling display of gunboat diplomacy by the Suriname navy?

Suriname has also granted concessions to other companies.

Since it is difficult to see how any serious dialogue could be meaningfully conclusive without a resumption of CGX’s oil exploration at the site from which it was forcefully evicted, CARICOM may have to be ready to deliver on its promise to "provide whatever assistance it can", in resolving the current dispute between its two member states.

(From yesterday’s Barbados Nation).



The border game

It would seem from what was made public on Monday that the negotiations with Suriname over the return of the CGX rig to the Eagle drilling site were doomed from the start. Guyana was negotiating about CGX, Suriname was negotiating about territory. It is now clear that our neighbour to the east made a play for territorial advantage using the rig as a forcing card; however, once Guyana was not prepared to concede that the site lay within Surinamese jurisdiction, the game was over.

Why Suriname should have overplayed here hand to the extent that she sacrificed the possibility of some economic advantage – which would not have involved prejudice to the claims of either side pending resolution of the maritime boundary dispute – in pursuit of an all or nothing goal, is a little puzzling. One can only assume that she misread Guyana’s intentions badly. Minister Alibux’s somewhat surly mode of speech following the failure of the talks might suggest that the Surinamese side really did believe that their manoeuvre would work.

As it was, the gunboat diplomacy which preceded the negotiations allowed little room for Paramaribo to retreat or save face when she reached the negotiating table, especially as the action of her navy had generated such national feeling among Surinamese. From the point of view of negotiating tactics, the gunboats are usually sent in at the end of diplomacy when talks have broken down, and not at the beginning before they have even started. The exercise has a certain Palmerstonian flavour about it, albeit on a Lilliputian scale.

As things stand Suriname’s approach will force this country into a position where she will have to take her border problems more seriously. In addition, she will be obliged to assert herself on the eastern frontier sooner or later, with the inevitable rise in tension and loss of co-operation in all kinds of spheres that the implies. While Guyana will be deprived of any benefit from the Eagle site, so will Suriname as well, the area is effectively frozen since no company will accept a concession from either side after this. In addition, it will be in this nation’s interest to push hard for a resolution of the whole border issue, and ideally not at a bilateral level.

In the case of the maritime boundary, one might have thought that Suriname’s legal officers would have been aware that given current thinking in international law about the continental shelf, in an international forum she almost certainly would not be awarded the ten degrees east of true north line across that shelf to which she is so tenaciously adhering. It might be added, furthermore, that her moral and legal case for the New River Triangle is also extremely weak. Is it possible, therefore, that she tried to secure by bully tactics that which she thought might be unobtainable at an international or multilateral level? Or is it that her thinking on this issue is so totally introverted that it takes no account of the global norms which are applied in this kind of context?

As it is Suriname miscalculated on two counts. The first…. simply was that her trump card blocking the return of the CGX rig – was less than the ace of trumps she thought it was. It appears that CGX Energy Inc had a back-up plan to drill in a smaller field than Eagle (although still not a small field) off the Berbice coast in undisputed Guyana territory. Guyana, therefore, was not sitting at the negotiating table facing the possibility of quite the huge economic fiasco which Suriname seems to have believed.

Secondly, of course, she miscalculated about the temper of the Guyanese people and the intentions of the Guyana Government.

Perhaps Suriname thought that given the divisiveness of an election year, there would be no national cohesiveness on the subject of the boundary. If so she was wrong. Perhaps she thought that a government which had made so many concessions to her, which had left the GDF here of equipment and had watched impotently as she took control in the Corentyne river was a weak government. That might be so, but it did not follow from that that the PPP/Civic administration was either prepared or in a position to hand over territory.

Suriname’s hard-line approach will play well in Paramaribo, and given her patrol boats and aircraft she will be able to assert herself in the short term – at least on the Corentyne River. In the long term, however, she has probably made a bad move. Her intentions cannot be misread again, she has limited her options, and she may well find that she has set in motion a train of events which down the line will not operate to her advantage.

Guyana's case in maritime dispute is indisputable Dear Editor,

Your editorial of June 11, 2000 makes a sound case for Guyana in the controversy with Suriname over the concession granted to the Canadian company CGX Energy Inc to drill for oil in an area off Guyana's coast.

You state that the Guyana line of 33 degrees east of true north confirms with the principle of equidistance established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea when there is no agreed maritime boundary. In contrast, Suriname adheres to the line 010 degrees east of true north, that is west of the Guyana line, defined by the draft treaty agreed between Great Britain and the Netherlands. The said draft was in translation for signature in 1939 when the outbreak of war in Europe in September, 1939 interrupted formal completion. You note also that, according to The Mirror of June 7, Suriname had rejected article 15 of the United Nations Convention. This article, however, deals only with the delimitation of the territorial sea, which was the subject of the draft treaty, as distinct from the substantial contiguous and exclusive economic zone.

The editorial also observes that the boundary experts of the 1930s who had framed the draft treaty knew nothing about the concept of the exclusive economic zone and that considerations relating to the continental shelf were only to be introduced into global maritime thinking after World War Two.

I should assume that Guyana's case does not treat Suriname's rejection of Article 15 in isolation and give it a weighting out of context. Nor neglect the evolution of the process of delimitation of the continental shelf among and between adjacent states. For Guyana's case is eminently stronger.

Indeed, the principle of equidistance in the continental shelf did attract international attention well before the framing of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea. The convention on the continental shelf reached in Geneva in April, 1958 established in Article 6(2) that when the continental shelf is adjacent to the territories of two states, and in the absence of agreement, the boundary should be determined by the application of the principle of equidistance from the nearest points of the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea of each state is measured.

Only four months later, in August, 1958, at the request of Suriname, as communicated to the British Government by the Embassy of the Netherlands in London by aide memoire dated August 6, 1958, the Netherlands proposed that the division of the territorial seas and continental shelf should be defined in accordance with this principle of equidistance. The British accepted. It should be noted that after the end of the war negotiations had resumed in 1949 on the basis of another draft treaty, a second draft, which was identical with the first draft of 1939 save in one aspect. Accordingly, this second draft was revised to produce a third draft which was divided into three parts to define the agreed principle of equidistance.

Part two, containing two articles VII and VIII, provided the definition of the dividing line between the territorial seas and contiguous zone as being formed by "the prolongation seawards of the line drawn on a bearing of 010 degrees referred to in article 1(2) to a distance of 6 miles from the seaward of the concrete marks referred to, (that is, those outside No. 61 Village) thence on a bearing of 033 degrees for a distance of 35 miles, thence on a bearing of 038 degrees for a distance of 28 miles, thence on a bearing of 028 degrees to the point of intersection with the edge of the continental shelves as defined by international law."

The British were prepared to concede the 010 degree line so far as the territorial sea was concerned as it was not considered to represent the median line.

This draft, the third, was forwarded to the Netherlands in October, 1961. In June, 1962, the Netherlands submitted a counter draft comprising a package which included the first official claims to the New River Triangle and located the boundary in the Corentyne in the thalweg rather than on the left bank as in the first draft. It turned out that the concept of the thalweg was rather generous to the Netherlands case. The Netherlands also proposed an alternative method of dividing the territorial waters and continental shelf by prolonging the 010 degree line seawards along the end of the thalweg proposed rather than the British line 033 degree which was slightly eastward.

It is significant that this counter position was contemporary with the reopening by Venezuela of its claim to the Essequibo at the United Nations in February, 1962 and at a time of considerable domestic upheaval in British Guiana. On February 3, 1966, on the eve of Guyana's independence and a fortnight prior to the convening in Geneva of the critical meeting on the Guyana/Venezuela boundary, the Netherlands forwarded a substantial note rejecting the third draft treaty and, among other things, reverted to the 010 degree maritime line as the sea boundary.

Since the 010 degree line of the first draft was related to the direction of the left bank of the Corentyne, and not to any median rule, that line would be open to negotiation as it would lose whatever validity was accorded if the frontier were to be shifted to the thalweg and the median line seaward commenced from that point.

I have already traced the path of this coincidence/collaboration/ collusion about the limits of Guyana in an article: `A persistent threat to Guyana's territorial integrity' published in the Sunday Stabroek of October 4, 1998. It is pertinent to note now that whatever source inspired or manipulated the confluence of action by Venezuela and Suriname in 1962, in that frigid season of contentious ideologies, is now confronted with the irony of the closing circle and the chagrin befalling CGX. On the western side, there is the parallel situation, or coincidence, with Beal Aerospace equally distracted by domestic Guyanese considerations.

The agreement reached by Presidents HD Hoyte and Ramsaywack Shankar in 1989, developed in the Memorandum of Understanding of 1991, in essence formally endorsed the intent of the third draft treaty of 1961. It was the culmination of over two decades of consummate diplomacy and the mutual respect generated between two neighbouring states.

By any application of international law and convention, intent, usage or custom, the maritime limits determined by Guyana in accordance with the principle of equidistance, in the absence of formal agreement, are really indisputable. Accordingly, granting concessions to companies, including CGX, to drill for oil in the prescribed area is merely an act of sovereignty. It follows, therefore, that assertive action, through diplomacy and/or otherwise, should be readily available to support effectively the legal position.

The incident also underlines the imperative to initiate and pursue the more complex task of real negotiations, not oblivious of the controversy elsewhere, to determine the eastern boundary in all three constituent aspects. It is also valuable for the appropriate department to cause to be published the maritime boundary line as officially determined.

Yours faithfully
Cedric Joseph

Control must be reasserted over Eagle drill site

The news that CGX will drill at an alternative site in the Atlantic is the only glint of hope in an otherwise depressing tableau of diplomatic efforts to get Suriname to permit the oil rig to return to its preferred Eagle drill site.

CGX's decision will obviously be seen as a pragmatic one and one dictated by the exigencies of having a costly rig on standby in the middle of what has now become an intractable row between the two neighbours.

Nevertheless, CGX must be congratulated for sticking with Guyana despite the extreme disappointment at being forced out of the Eagle site which is within this country's territorial zone but is being claimed by Paramaribo.

The Horseshoe West site is rated as a 250-million barrel prospect compared with the Eagle's 850-million potential. All Guyanese will cling to the hope that Horseshoe West will realize this country's hope of joining the club of oil producing nations and benefiting from reduced expenditure on petroleum requirements. We wish the company success and trouble-free drilling.

The Eagle site is still there for the taking by CGX whenever Guyana can reclaim effective control over the area. This must be foremost among the short-term objectives of our relations with Paramaribo. In the deconstruction of what occurred this month lessons have to be drawn by the government for future conduct and actions taken.

First, Suriname's act of aggression in evicting the CGX rig on June 3 has no doubt diminished confidence in the investor community over the government's ability to exert effective control over all of Guyana's territory. Particularly as it relates to offshore oil drilling and investments in areas in the east and west that are subject to claims by Caracas and Paramaribo the government has a job to do to soothe the concerns of investors.

Second, investors in sensitive areas should be advised of the potential for territorial friction with its attendant effects and pre-emptive action should be taken to limit this. In this case the CGX rig was operating clearly within Guyana's defined waters so there was apparently no reason to be concerned. However, Paramaribo was clearly lying in ambush and with two or three well-appointed gunboats was able to force a concessionaire out of a legitimately granted area.

Third, we repeat the point that effective control must be exercised over all of Guyana's territory and we must possess reasonable military means to achieve this. It is unlikely that Suriname would have even contemplated the armed eviction of the rig had it been accompanied to the area and guarded full-time by armed Guyanese patrol boats. As it is the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) uses a borrowed boat that is not an effective deterrent. Once the eviction has occurred no shrewd investor would re-enter an area that had in split seconds become a zone of possible confrontation and this was the case with CGX which politely declined Guyana's offer for accompaniment to the area. The country's defence needs must now be treated as an emergency with or without a national security strategy and the government is obligated to seriously address this issue. Four to six fast patrol boats, a reconnaissance aircraft and an attack helicopter must be on the agenda.

Fourth, having failed to wrest from the negotiating table a reasonable settlement from Suriname and given the moral right on its side, Guyana must swiftly and intensively present its case to the international community and thereby apply pressure on Suriname to yield to a reasoned, negotiated agreement on the Eagle site. Suriname is already making its case heard in the international community. According to a report in the June 18 Sunday Stabroek, its UN Ambassador Subhas Mungra told De Ware Tijd that from the outset of the dispute with Guyana he had dispatched diplomatic notes to all 188 member states of the United Nations. Presumably Guyana has also embarked on a similar offensive though this is still to be communicated to the public. In addition, pressure should be applied on Suriname at every conceivable international forum - starting with CARICOM - to respect Guyana's rights to the area and to censure Paramaribo over its military escapade at a time when diplomatic negotiations were underway.

Fifthly, at a time when the Surinamese have clearly not dealt with our negotiators in a straightforward manner and are pressing for the settlement of the larger border issue, there must be an impregnable national consensus on treating with Paramaribo. There must be no chink in the resolve shown towards Suriname and the government must rapidly build partnerships across the political spectrum and with civil society. There must be a full sharing of information by the government and it must seek to enlist the requisite expertise to solidify its case for the area.

The ubiquitous message to Paramaribo must be that Guyana wants peace with its eastern neighbour but will not tolerate military truculence in any area that clearly belongs to this country.