Nickerie.Net, woensdag 26 september 2007

Maritime dispute resolution opens possibility for quantum leap in development

Guyana Chronicle, Sep 24 -  2007

Georgetown - President Jagdeo disappointed with time lost over resolving issue IF there is oil in the delineated areas offshore Guyana set by the Guyana/Suriname Arbitral Tribunal, then this would open the way for the country to make a quantum leap in its development. These sentiments have been circulating around the country since the tribunal made public its award last Thursday after three-and-a-half years of proceedings and analyses.

President Bharrat Jagdeo said these sentiments are well in order as the decision opens new vitas for Guyana’s oil search. We can’t confirm that there is oil there immediately, but from all the surveys done, including the US Geological surveys, they have reported that there seems to be significant quantities. If that’s true, that would transform Guyana.”

It would provide a tremendous income to our country that would catapult its development in the future and we can see quantum leap in our development,” President Jagdeo commented during a special interview at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport Friday before departing for the United States to attend the United Nations Summit on Climate Change.

However, amidst his enthusiasm and elation, the Head of State has regrets over the lengthy process and the delay in what could have been a positive development for Guyana if there is really oil in those basins.

“What bothers me most, is that we lost about seven years, and if there is oil there we could have had a thriving oil industry in Guyana with a lot of benefits to our people… so that’s a lost opportunity and I regret that,” President Jagdeo commented.

He emphasised his satisfaction with the decision made as put forward in his address to the Nation on the said day the award was made public. “I think we did extremely well in terms of the achievement of those objectives,” the President said.

“In the first 100 miles where you have shallow waters and it is easier to explore for oil, we have gained 84.5 percent. Suriname gained just about 15.5 percent of that area. That puts the area - the Eagle and the significant part of Wishbone, two sites identified by CGX as potentially rich with hydrocarbons within Guyana’s waters, so I think we are vindicated all around.”

President Jagdeo said at some point, the journey towards a successful arbitral award would be analysed impressing that the decision to push ahead with the process was not an easy one and one that could pose tremendous consequences for the nation he leads.

“I recalled before we filed, there was this risk that the case could have gone against us and I suspect if that had happened, today people would not have been saying favourable things to me, but I was convinced about the strength of our case this is why I took the decision that we should pursue that process.”

President Jagdeo recalled that the decision to approach the tribunal was only taken after failed attempts at bilateral negations and interventions by CARICOM to bring a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

“I see some of the comments coming out in Suriname that they should have paid more attention maybe to bilateral negotiations. We tried at every single level here; in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in Jamaica. I went back to Suriname on a state visit. We even offered joint exploration and exploitation which would have been to the benefit of Suriname today, but they refused to go along that route so we had no choice if we wanted this issue resolved to file with the UN convention on the Law of the Sea,” the President said.

Now that the border dispute has been settled, the Head of State said Licensees would hopefully start their exploration activities.

The award issued by the Guyana / Suriname Arbitral Tribunal brought an end to the lengthy arbitration process between Guyana and its eastern neighbour Suriname to demarcate the maritime boundary between the two countries.

Established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Arbitral Tribunal made the award public on September 20 after thousands of pages of written submissions contained in 13 printed volumes of pleadings, scrutiny of several maps, three weeks of oral pleadings and innumerable hours of analysing the law and facts pertinent to the case.

There were six core issues brought before the Tribunal in the case, and Guyana’s interests and objectives have been met in each.

On February 24, 2004, Guyana after failed attempts to settle the issue at the bilateral and CARICOM levels, gave written notification and a statement of claim to Suriname submitting a dispute concerning the delimitation of its maritime boundary with Suriname to an arbitral tribunal to be constituted under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. (GINA)

GUYANA'S DAY WITH SURINAME - Now for Venezuela's claim

By Rickey Singh

THE UNANIMOUS verdict of a five-member tribunal of international jurists on an historical maritime dispute between Guyana and Suriname, has delivered an overwhelming victory in favour of the Guyanese nation. The award, announced last Thursday in the capitals of both neighbouring CARICOM states on the South American continent, points to much more than a denunciation of Suriname's "unlawful" resort to gunboat diplomacy in 2000 to expel a Canadian oil company from drilling operations in what has been confirmed to be Guyana's sovereign territory.

Within hours of the posting on the international web the award that came after three and half years of legal proceedings in The Hague, the affected oil company, CGX Energy, jubilantly announced its readiness to resume drilling operations in that very area of Guyana's economic zone from which it was forcefully expelled by Surinamese gunboats.

While President Bharrat Jagdeo was hailing the award as "a great day for Guyana", but warning against any display of "triumphalism", CGX President and CEO, Kerry Sully, was announcing in Canada on Thursday evening an expenditure of US$15 million on further seismic works, to be followed by a larger investment of US$65 million on other targetted areas.

No gloating In what could prove helpful for future good relations and exploitation of maritime resources for mutual benefit of both nations, the award by the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea has firmly established a single maritime boundary between Guyana and Suriname. This has the immediate effect of removal of all grey areas in interpreting assumed boundary demarcations for what constitutes "sovereign territory"

However, although being the beneficiary of some two-thirds of the tribunal's judgement, President Jagdeo was to wisely avoid in his broadcast any sort of gloating as he outlined details of the award and explained positive features that could influence practical forms of cooperation between Guyana and Suriname.

The judicial process was initiated by Guyana in 2005 with the understanding that the judgement would be final and legally binding on both parties.

No surprise, therefore, that while Suriname's President Runoldo Venetiaan, sought to downplay the extent of success gained by Guyana, and regretted the use of force in the expulsion of the Canadian oil company, CGX Energy, he, like President Jagdeo, welcomed the tribunal's ruling and held out hopes for neighbourly cooperation.

`Encouragingly, both countries have so far shown a preference for the use of language to highlight the positive aspects to result from the tribunal's ruling--for instance cooperative ventures for shared economic development.

Their efforts, as of last week, and in particular Guyana's-- primary beneficiary of the award--to resist the temptation to gloat, and stay close to objective analysis of the tribunal's judgement, would be viewed, well beyond its own shores, as being commendable and politically correct.

The 167-page award, including graphs and maps, was the second such judgement on demarcation of maritime boundaries, to have involved the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the first being that of April last year between Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

Barbados and T&T Then, both Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados had engaged in sophisticated public communication initiatives to project the judgement in their maritime dispute as a "win for both sides". Nevertheless, it would have been evident to independent and informed observers that Barbados had scored the higher ratings in the final award

What has remained intact, as both these CARICOM states now pursue new initiatives to resolve their long standing dispute on fishing rights, is the good relations they maintain and so vital not just for themselves but the future of the 15-member Community of which they are valued partners.

This scenario is equally applicable to Guyana and Suriname as they endeavour to close the book on negative developments, such as the resort to gunboat diplomacy, and focus on how best they can cooperate with each other in the exploitation of their marine resources and dwell peacefully as good neighbours that are also members of CARICOM.

When a more careful assessment is made of the tribunal's judgement on the Guyana/Suriname maritime dispute, there could well be better appreciation for Guyana's historical treatment of the 6,000 square miles New River Triangle area as part of its sovereign territory.

A relevant question now is what new initiatives are to be pursued by Guyana to obtain practical cooperation from neighbouring Venezuela to end the age-old controversy resulting from that country's claim to approximately two-thirds of Guyanese territory in the sprawling Essequibo region, rich in mineral and forest resources.

The Venezuela government of President Hugo Chavez likes to talk sweetly about "good neighbourliness" and cooperation among Caribbean and Latin American nations against "foreign aggression".

But it is more than high time for this perceived "visionary disciple" of Simon Bolivar, to demonstrate his own awareness how Guyana, under successive governments, continues to suffer from Venezuela's own unhelpful and quite arrogant policy in refusing to recognise Guyanese sovereign right to promote economic development in the Essequibo region to which successive administrations in Caracas has laid claim.

An International Tribunal had made clear in a judgement way back in 1899, and known as the "Paris arbitral award", that the "1897 Treaty of Washington"---to which a then Venezuela government was party---constituted a "full, perfect and final settlement" of the demarcated borders of what was then colonial British Guiana, and today's Guyana, home of the CARICOM Secretariat.

Therefore, with the maritime dispute with Suriname behind it, Guyana may now be inclined to pursue new initiatives to resolve the controversy--as distinct from a "dispute"--arising from Venezuela's claim to some two-thirds of its 83,000 square miles sovereign territory.

Surinamese opposition vows to oust government over UN Tribunal ruling

Guyana Chronicle, Sep 22 -  2007

The Suriname opposition party led by former President Jules Wijdenbosch is angered by the UN Tribunal on the Law of the Sea on the Guyana/Suriname maritime border dispute which favours Guyana. According to the Suriname correspondent for the Caribbean Net News, Ivan Cairo the Venetiaan government is being blamed for the poor preparation to challenge the claims by Guyana laid at the Tribunal in February 2004.

Wijdenbosch is arguing that the government failed to treat this matter as an issue of national interest and excluded political opponents from participating in the preparation. “When you do that, this is the result you will get. This is unacceptable,” Wijdenbosch told reporters. The ex-Surinamese President further noted that when he was in office the dispute with Guyana flared up in June 2000 and he sought a solution under the auspices of CARICOM at the highest political level with President Bharrat Jagdeo.

“But when this government came into office they downgraded the issue by putting it back in the hands of the Border Commission. The Surinamese government should have pursued the course of finding a solution with Guyana on the political level, Wijdenbosch contended.

According to former Surinamese military strongman of the main opposition party NDP in 2000 it was all about the area which the Tribunal has awarded to Guyana. “We got water and fish, and Guyana got the oil,” NDP parliamentarian Rashied Doekhie, adding that Suriname should be in mourning for a week. Meanwhile, the joint Surinamese opposition has issued a statement hinting at action to oust the government.

“The International Tribunal on the Convention of the Law of the Sea handed down a ruling that is disadvantageous to our country and people. An irrevocable verdict which is sempiternal and has taken away tremendous development opportunities for our people. Structural exclusion of all other Surinamese experts has resulted in the fact that today our nation is faced with a disastrous ruling of the International Tribunal.”

The statement further noted that the joint opposition from now on is considering steps in order to prevent the government continuing to “bargain the interests of our nation and continue to impoverish our people.”

President Venitiaan who announced his government’s acceptance of the ruling by the Tribunal in response to the opposition claims remarked: “This is the nature of the opposition”. He added when the problem arose his party was in the opposition and stood firmly behind the government supporting the eviction of the CGX oil rig from the disputed area. He noted too that it was the Wijdenbosch administration which ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.




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