Director of Communications, Mr. Mark Archer: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media. Welcome to this press conference this afternoon. We have the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Brigadier David Granger, and the President of Suriname, Desiré Delano Bouterse. We will have a statement by the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana followed by a statement by the Surinamese President. Brigadier Granger:
President David Granger: Thank you. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen of the media. Today our country has had the honour of welcoming our friend and neighbour, the Republic of Suriname, and we met in Nieuw Nickerie on 1st of July and we committed then to meeting again and this happened within the same calendar year.
As you know, Guyana and Suriname are the two largest states in the Caribbean Community. We have a land space that is larger than Germany or Japan and we have a combined population of over 1.3 million people.
It is therefore in the interest not only of ourselves as neighbouring states but also in the interest of the Caribbean Community that we use every opportunity to deepen the integration process and, in so doing, we serve the entire community.
We have embarked on a series of engagements and today, at our meeting, we took decisions which will not only expedite matters that were discussed in previous years but, more importantly, we have planned for the future and that is as much as I want to say now. There are several areas of cooperation, but we are particularly concerned with the economic integration of our two states and the removal of any obstacles to that process of integration.
Thank you very much.
Director of Communications, Mr. Mark Archer: We will now have a statement by President Desiré Delano Bouterse.
President Desiré Delano Bouterse via Interpreter: Thank you, Mr. President Granger. Ladies and gentlemen of the press, good afternoon, also the press from Suriname. Actually my statement is almost the same as President Granger’s. In July 2016 we had a border meeting in Nieuw Nickerie, which we concluded with a Joint Communiqué after we had discussed some ten different items. If you look back now, in a couple of months, what we see is that both Suriname and Guyana look back and say that we are not really very satisfied with the way in which these points that we discussed have been implemented.
The main purpose of this meeting, therefore, is to create a structure in such a way that we can discuss items which are results based, but also with a timeframe attached. In this past period, if we look at the way in which we have cooperated and collaborated with one another, particularly in the crime fighting area, our police forces have met regularly not only in Suriname and Guyana, but they have also met in other countries abroad. In any case, we are very happy to say that today we have recommendations to create such a structural mechanism that we will be able to implement what we have agreed upon in a more efficient manner.
We also discussed a number of small issues that created some problems with the people in the Government of Guyana and Suriname. Our delegation has promised to go back to Suriname and find those solutions to these small problems that were discussed. I would like to… this would be the end of my statement for the time being.
Thank you.
Director of Communications, Mr. Mark Archer: We will now have questions.
Media representative: Particularly with economic concerns, could you expand a bit on that and Mr. Bouterse, you spoke of results based meetings with some timeframes attached to it. Could you expand a bit on that too?
President David Granger: If I can start, our concerns were particularly the development of agreements or the implementation of agreements which we have reached some time ago. One of the most important, from an economic point of view, is the functioning of the Canawaima Ferry and, as President Bouterse said, there are some issues which will be discussed when he goes back home and we have today created a mechanism for expediting the solution to those issues.
I think that is the most important outcome of the meeting – that we have agreed on a method of moving forward to the future to ensure that problems are solved; it is not a talk shop; it is about solving problems.
One important mechanism is that the economic issues will be brought before the Cooperation Council and that the matters – the economic matters which may arise from time to time – will be quickly resolved or at least brought to the attention of that Council.
We are also concerned with the livelihood of persons who cross the Corentyne River, particularly minibus operators and persons who need to travel to airports in Suriname on commercial and other activities so that the access to those airports by Guyanese air operators will be unimpeded.
So from the economic point of view, those are the main concerns and, as I said, we have now agreed on the structure which is capable of expediting action on those concerns, particularly in the transport sphere.
President Desiré Delano Bouterse via Interpreter: In July 2016 in Nieuw Nickerie, we touched upon a number of issues which concerned the environment, for example, tourism, oil exploration, investments etc. And now we are about a half a year further, six months further, and if we look back we are not very satisfied with what has been done with these issues so that’s not good and that is why we would take these as an example (he’s giving these as an example).
So the solution that we have tried to bring about is that we would have created a mechanism in which the different issues that will be brought up or have been brought up per sector can be discussed and that these will be implemented and monitored within a certain timeframe and then reported back.
Together with this mechanism, there will also be the possibility to have a special envoy; both countries would have a special envoy, who would report directly back to the President and work with the Joint Cooperation Council to see what the problems are that have been identified and find solutions for these problems.
Mr. Denis Chabrol, Demerara Waves: President Bouterse, President Granger referred to the removal of obstacles; in that context could you say sir, what steps are being taken to give approval to The Netherlands for the release of the relevant documents for the border dispute so that a settlement could be arrived at eventually? And also what progress has been made with respect to the improvement of transportation as far as the construction of a bridge across the Corentyne River is concerned?
President Desiré Delano Bouterse via Interpreter: The border issue is a very sensitive one for both of our countries. We understand this; both of us and both of the countries have their own instruments to gather the information and data and to see how they will analyse this and present this.
We know that we have this issue between us but, in spite of this, we both have the responsibility to collaborate and cooperate with one another in areas which we have identified and which we will identify in order to bring about the sustainable development of both in our countries.
As far as the bridge over the Corentyne River is concerned, both of our countries are interested in this. We have given an update to President Granger and his delegation on what we would call the history of the project to construct this bridge over the Corentyne River.
For example, if we want to build a bridge both countries have to agree not only on the bridge itself but also on the location. If we would take the vicinity of ‘South Drain’ as the point where the bridge would start and we would build it towards Guyana, it means that we would need permission from Guyana to land it on the other side; and if you look at the location there, it is more or less in the area of Long Island that we would be discussing.
Fortunately, there is no conflict existing between Suriname and Guyana on the bridge; for example, in 2013 we had an M.o.U signed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Suriname signed an M.o.U with a large Chinese company called China Railway Construction to build this bridge and we received a ‘no-objection’ from the Government of Guyana.
There are different financing mechanisms that we could look at; there are financing mechanisms within the EU, China, even Brazil. What we have to do is look into the best conditions which they would provide for us, but it’s not only the construction of the bridge that we are talking about. It is also the total infrastructure that goes along with this bridge and that, in the wider sense of the word, leading into the bridge and that is what we have to take into account as well for the total integration of the two countries.
Director of Communications, Mr. Mark Archer: Any other questions? Go ahead.
Shunza Samuels, NCN News: The issues surrounding the backtrack… Did that form part of your discussions and if… could you…?
President David Granger: Backtrack?
Shunza Samuels, NCN News: Illegal, sorry…
President David Granger: We do not have any interest in any non-legal movements between the two countries. We did not discuss backtrack, and we will be having a meeting of the Police Commissioners next week and that and any other matters concerning non-legal activities will be discussed in the new structures that we have created. So the relation between the two states will be based on law – municipal law, international law – and we want to ensure that in future any form of trans-border or cross-border criminality are eliminated.
Ravin Sigh, Guyana Chronicle: Mr. President Granger could you say if in the discussions about economic relations if… Guyana’s oil and gas sector was brought up?
President David Granger: Yes, the matter did arise. As you know, it rose in fact at the July meeting because Suriname has an oil and gas sector. Within the Caribbean Community, Trinidad also has an oil and gas sector and at that time we did raise the matter. It was not a substantive matter today, but based on the agreement we had in July we are confident that as we move ahead we will be able to rely on the expertise and the experience of Suriname in this field, but it was not a substantial or even substantive matter today.
Thandeka Percival, Stabroek News: You both mentioned that mechanisms are being put in place to foster the cooperation. You mentioned the structures. You even noted that one measure that might be used is the appointment of envoys. Could you develop for us how these structures were formed, for example, the envoy that might be appointed; what position might this person have within the different foreign ministries; what exactly is the structure or the mechanism that has been put in place?
President David Granger: The basic structure is what is called the Guyana-Suriname Cooperation Council and that is a forum that will be all-embracing. In addition to that we also have the opportunity to re-establish the Border Committees but the Cooperation Council itself will have the ability to create sub-committees as they are needed, depending on whether those sub-committees deal with social issues like education, health or economic issues, trade or criminal issues involving the police and so on.
So the structure is one that pre-existed and it will simply be given strength next month and, as far as the special envoy is concerned, he has not been appointed yet. We are going to agree, between the two states, on the Terms of Reference but we have realised that over the years some of the agreements have not been fully implemented and we feel that that is the best means of doing so.
Guyana and Suriname are the only two Caribbean countries which share a border, and we feel that just as easily as President Bouterse was able to come into Guyana today the envoy could sort of shuttle; do what is called ‘shuttle diplomacy’ between the two capitals so anytime there is a bottleneck we are confident that it will be cleared up much more quickly.
We expect that the envoy, who is to be appointed, will be at least ambassadorial rank so he will have an official status between the two capitals and, given the cordiality which exists between President Bouterse and myself, I am confident that he will have easy access to the highest officials of state and, of course, the two Presidents. We have met twice already for this year and we will be prepared to meet again if there is any matter that needs our urgent personal attention, but we expect that that envoy, who is going to be at least at an ambassadorial level, will be able to shuttle between the two capitals and be able to contact the heads of the various units in the two states.
Media representative: If I may, a follow up on the bridge. Mr. Bouterse, you spoke of a Chinese company being involved. I’m wondering could you give a bit more clarification on who will be financing the … or what are our usual obligations? And I have been meaning to asking this, but I’m thinking about all that has been said don’t sound like discussions for Heads of State; so I’m tempted to ask you what was the real reason for this meeting?
President Desiré Delano Bouterse via interpreter: I started off when I spoke in my statement by saying that both President Granger and myself met in 2016 already, in July in Nieuw Nickerie, and that we had an agreement that a number of things would [have been] done, but both of us are not really satisfied with the way in which follow-up was given to these issues.
If you think about it … our main purpose always is in these meetings is to strengthen the relations; to deepen the relations that we have and to eventually come to sustainable development for both our countries and our peoples.
Now, if we come to the end of this year and we look back and we see that things that we agreed upon, which would form the basis really, the foundation, for sustainable development projects to be undertaken together, that nothing much has come out of that then you understand how important it was that we met by the end of this year so that we can prevent the same situation from occurring in the new year.
If you go back on what I’ve said already on the bridge, but I would just like to expand a little bit, a design was made for the bridge already and studies have already been carried out and paid for. There are, as I said already, a number of different financing modalities that might be available to us. We have not negotiated about the bridge in this meeting.
The Chinese were willing to pay or are willing to pay for the bridge but they first needed a complete feasibility study plus a complete E.S.I.A – Environmental and Social Impact Assessment – carried out before they could start with the construction of the bridge so that was not included; then we have to do everything before the construction can start.
Brazil and the EU are also interested in financing the construction of the Bridge – the EU because of the integration of South America, something that is attractive for them to think about. It’s not only this particular bridge. We’re talking about something much bigger, the total integration of South America; that’s the umbrella and if you look at that for Suriname it would mean the bridge over the Corentyne plus the bridge over the Marowijne [Maroni] River, which is on the other side, which is French Guiana.
We have to take priorities; we have to look at what priorities are there and at the studies that were carried out and the experts would have to take a decision and make recommendations for us.
Director of Communications, Mr. Mark Archer: Okay, ladies and gentlemen…
President David Granger: If I can add before we close, well in fact this might be a good point at which to close. There were concrete matters discussed. We have reviewed existing agreements. We have set up a mechanism for moving forward. I am confident that our meeting today will contribute to the intensification of the integration process and I would like to add that cordiality is a lubricant of diplomacy and I’m very confident that the relationship that has been concretised will facilitate the solution to problems which are already existing and problems in the future. So we shouldn’t only judge the meeting on the actual agenda, but we will judge the meeting on our resolve to move the integration process forward.
So thank you very much.
Director of Communications, Mr. Mark Archer: Thank you for coming.

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