Sep 26, 2022 News
– Ambassador summoned after Jagdeo’s ‘corruption remarks’
Kaieteur News – An agreement between neighbours, Guyana and Suriname for the latter to deliver 150 SK fishing licenses, allowing Guyanese to operate there, has hit a snag as local authorities say they have exhausted all diplomatic routes in addressing the matter.
As a consequence Guyana’s Ambassador to Suriname, Keith George was recently summoned by the Interim Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business, and International Cooperation (BIBIS), Krishna Mathoera, following statements made by Guyanese Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo alleging corruption in the issuance of fishing licences. This move made by Suriname prompted the Guyana Government to issue a statement on Saturday detailing its efforts to diplomatically resolve the issue. Despite these efforts, Guyana said the desired outcome has not been achieved and Guyanese fishermen continue to be harassed by Surinamese authorities. Notwithstanding, the Government said it remains committed to good neighbourly relations with Suriname.
Jagdeo last week was quoted by the Stabroek News alleging that corrupt practices by authorities in Suriname have stalled its promised licensing of 150 local fishing vessels. He said too that Guyana will be seeking CARICOM’s intervention to resolve the continued harassment of its fisherfolk that has been continuing as a result. “We have to start playing hardball now,” Jagdeo told fishers in Region Six, Stabroek News reported on September 17. According to the Stabroek News Jagdeo, who spoke to fishers at both Port Mourant and Skeldon, alleged that the Minister is linked to several people controlling the fishing boat licenses and profiteering off of Guyanese fisherfolk, which has snared the agreement between the two Governments to license 150 fishing boats here.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall earlier this month had also threatened legal recourse to resolve the issue. In its statement chronicling all ‘political and diplomatic efforts’ made here to get the Surinamese to follow through on the proposed commitment, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the license issue was discussed at the Presidential level in 2020 at the first meeting of the Agriculture Working Group under the (Strategic Dialogue and Cooperation Platform) SDCP, which was convened in Suriname in November that year.
There, Guyana requested that Suriname issues 150 SK licenses to Guyanese fishermen to fish offshore Suriname. In agreeing to the granting of the licenses, the Ministry said that the Surinamese Government, ‘indicated that it would set up a Government-owned company to be the business partner of the Guyanese fishermen with which they will sign a Vessel basing Agreement, and which will take care of the registration of the vessels of the Guyanese fishermen’ all in keeping with Suriname’s fishing legislation.
The Government of Suriname also proposed the conclusion of a Fisheries Agreement between the two countries which would also address the granting of licenses, the release continued. It said Guyana remained engage in the discussions with Suriname in good faith with the expectation that they would result in a mutually beneficial arrangement. The statement said that the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries of Suriname also wanted the names of the Surinamese middlemen from whom Guyanese fishermen were renting their licenses, while a number of criteria were outlined for the formation of the company.
“Guyana complied with all the other requirements of Suriname for the setting up of the company and after some reluctance on the part of the Guyanese fishermen, the names of the middlemen were eventually handed over to the Surinamese Government,” the statement related. It said the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Guyana and Suriname also remained in communication on the issue, where Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister wrote to his counterpart, Minister Albert Ramdin on 13 August 2021, reminding him of Suriname’s commitment to issue the licenses.
The Presidents of Guyana and Suriname, between 17-20 August 2021 in Georgetown, also met and agreed that “that both Ministers responsible would work towards the issuance of fishing licences in that category by January 1, 2022, keeping in mind the established quota on the Surinamese side,” the statement said. However, “for several months, nothing further was heard from Suriname, and Minister Todd again wrote a letter dated 20 December 2021, to his Surinamese counterpart, Minister Ramdin, reminding him of the commitment and urging his intervention in bringing about a resolution of that outstanding matter.”
It was said that Minister Todd then received a response from his Surinamese counterpart dated January 6, 2022, in which Minister Ramdin suggested that the Ministers of Agriculture of both countries convene a meeting on January 13, 2022 in order to reach an agreement. “The proposed meeting was never convened,” the statement said.
It was noted however that at the Guyana/ Suriname/ Brazil Tripartite Summit which was held in Suriname, on 20 January 2022, the Presidents of Guyana and Suriname again met, and the licenses were discussed, with the Surinamese President reaffirming his commitment to the issuance of the SK licenses to Guyanese. But “Guyana did not receive any further formal or substantive communication from Suriname…” the statement said. It posited however, that “while the foregoing diplomatic and political initiatives were being undertaken, Guyanese fishermen continued to be harassed in Surinamese waters as they attempted to continue to ply their trade for their subsistence.” It added that matters escalated this year when Suriname confiscated three Guyanese fishing vessels along with their nets and engines and sold the catch. “Following the conclusion of the matter, Guyana reached out to Suriname to release the vessels on humanitarian grounds, but there was no accommodation to this effect. It became evident that the diplomatic route was not reaping any success,” the Foreign Affairs ministry said.
Kaieteur News understands that Guyanese had been fishing in Suriname for decades and were even instrumental in the development of that country’s fishing industry. Fishermen interviewed by this newspaper have all indicated knowing Guyanese fishing in Surinamese waters. It was said that as the industry grew, Guyanese eventually started buying licences through middlemen to operate there. During an interview with Chairman of the Greater Georgetown Fishermen Co-op, Mohamed Khan a few months ago, he had in fact told this newspaper that during his fishing days, he operated in Suriname. He said he was also part of the development of the Surinamese fishing industry, like many other Guyanese.
It was the increase of SK licenses by Surinamese middlemen that eventually forced Guyanese to seek the intervention of the Government. In a push back from industry stakeholders in Suriname, the situation has seemed to have “opened a can of worms and made matters worse” as one affected fisherman had put it. While Guyanese with licences caught their fish and sold it in Suriname or Guyana and could have left their boats in Guyana, they now have to sell their caught in Suriname, which has reduced their product cost because of influx and control by the Surinamese market. They also have to leave their boats in Suriname and find a different mode of transportation to and from work. The authorities have also demanded a reduction in the size of fishing vessels which locals say is unsafe.
Dec 09, 2022– Tiger Bay women confident of defeating Fruta Conquerors Kaieteur News – Future Stars and Bent Street are promising an electrifying MVP Sports Futsal Finals on Saturday as the two sides...
Kaieteur News – I have written it on this page twice before, I am writing it again- I will never support the abolition... more
By Sir Ronald Sanders Kaieteur News – (The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States of America... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]