I am not confident that the Jagdeo administration is best suited to manage our country’s territorial and border controversies. I believe that the emotional and ill-informed outbursts by the administration will endanger Guyana’s security.
I am now more than ever convinced that what we need is a national commission to take control of Guyana’s relations with our neighbours, in so far as these relate to territorial and border issues.
I believe that Parliament should insist that when it comes to the defence of Guyana’s territorial integrity it is better that this be undertaken by a national commission comprising persons from all political parties and supported by a team of high-level technocrats.
To leave the continued management of Guyana’s territorial integrity to the Foreign Ministry alone is to court disaster.
I am shocked and horrified by some of the statements that have been emanating from official sources. I know that not all feet are fully wet within the Foreign Service but this is no excuse for not being more circumspect about what one says concerning Guyana’s relations with our neighbours. I also cannot accept the contradictions.
For years Guyana has not protested Suriname’s exercise of sovereignty over the Corentyne River. Suriname registers fishing vessels using that river; our fishermen have been jailed and fined for using that river;
Guyana itself has applied for permission to operate a boat service on that river and yet we are now being told that there is no agreement recognizing Suriname’s sovereignty over that river. So why was Suriname allowed to exercise exclusive sovereignty over the river?
And what sort of nonsense are we being told that the Governors’ Agreement excluded the river. Is this the level of understanding of our country’s history that exists within our Foreign Service? Is this the state our Foreign Service has come to?
If I own some land, and on this land there is a river, and I decide to give you all the land east of the river, how can you argue that the river does not form part of the agreement?
Is this how Guyana’s case for user rights or shared sovereignty over the Corentyne River is going to be argued?
Source documents are available to settle misunderstandings and arguments. It is always advisable that these source documents be read before their interpretations, since the original documents often contain the essence of the agreements reached.
I would urge those who are inexperienced or unknowledgeable about Guyana’s Foreign Policy to go back to source documents and read those documents and to verify whether the issue of the river was excluded from the agreement as is now so ingeniously being suggested.
I also hope that the Articles of Capitulation which make the Governors’ Agreement conclusive (and not just a gentleman’s accord) are also read in their original form.
The Guyana Government is now asserting there is no agreement between the two sides concerning the Corentyne River and therefore there is a need to invoke the principles of international law, which guide the manner in which river boundaries are settled.
I am not at odds with this, except, as I have argued before, if the Government of Guyana is now saying there is no agreement on the issue of sovereignty over the Corentyne River, why has it allowed the Suriname Government to exercise sovereignty over that river for all these years?
Is the Government of Guyana implying that it has been neglectful in defending Guyana’s rights to that river? I am also being accused of impugning the sanctity of international agreements.
Where have I ever done this? The President of Guyana is the one who jumped up and said that Guyana should have user rights or shared sovereignty over the river.
I simply said that if he feels that he has a case for such rights, he should agree for the matter to be put in front of an international commission for determination. Do you believe he is going to do this?
I challenge him, if he is so firm in his conviction that there is no agreement on the exercise of sovereignty over the Corentyne River, to take the matter to an international commission for a final and definitive ruling. Is he prepared to go along this route and to accept the findings of any such Commission?
If as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is saying there is no agreement on the Corentyne River, then what is there to lose?
How could taking it to an international commission impugn the sanctity of international agreements? It is the government that is saying there is no agreement and therefore there is nothing to impugn.
The President of Guyana showed guts when he went to the Arbitral Tribunal on the Law of the Sea Convention. That settled once and for all the issue of Guyana’s maritime boundaries.
There remain two contentious issues: the matter of the Corentyne River and the New River Triangle.
I wish to assure those who have criticized the position that I have taken in the sugar boat matter that I have no doubts about Guyana’s sovereignty over the New River area.
It belongs to Guyana. But my position as regards the river boundary is that this boundary is the high water mark on the left bank.
But since the President and his government obviously believe otherwise, then at least Guyana should propose that the matter be conclusively settled by an international commission.
At least, let Guyana propose the solution. Since it feels there is no agreement, then what is there to lose by seeking an international ruling?
If Suriname says that it does not wish to go that route, at least we can say that we tried to bring about a resolution. So what say you, Jagdeo? Want to go down that route in respect? I doubt whether.