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By Santana Salmon- 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 government officials regarding the issue of Guyanese fishermen in Surinamese waters.
This move made by the Government of neighboring Suriname has since prompted the Guyana Government to act and the Foreign Ministry on Saturday released a statement chronicling 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 neighborly relations with Suriname.
In the statement on Saturday, the government of Guyana said the issue was discussed at the presidential level in 2020 and following a meeting in November of that year, Guyana asked Suriname to issue licenses to Guyanese fishermen to fish offshore Suriname.
The statement added that Suriname agreed to this and indicated that it would establish 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. This was 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. Guyana continued to engage in the discussions with Suriname in good faith with the expectation that they would result in a mutually beneficial arrangement,” the statement noted.
The Minister of Agriculture in Suriname also requested the names of the middlemen from whom the Guyanese fishermen were renting their licenses.
The Government of Guyana said it 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.”
However, Guyanese officials have stated 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 and that of their families.
“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,” the foreign affairs ministry said.