Fishing license – Stabroek News
Penultimate week, an agreement with our neighbor to the east was announced under which licenses would be issued by Paramaribo to fishermen in this country to operate in the Corentyne from January 2022. This agreement was born out of discussions between the Ministers of Agriculture of Guyana and Suriname during the official visit here by President Chandrikapersad Santokhi.
Guyanese fishermen have complained for years about the harassment of Surinamese patrols on the Corentyne River, even when they have obtained permits from Suriname to fish there. Two months ago, a number of fishermen met with Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha to complain about the harassment and appointed a member of the Surinamese patrol who asked them for money to allow them to fish. He didn’t care whether the licenses they had in their possession had expired or not, local fishermen said; permission came by payment to him. They told Mr. Mustapha about a case that occurred in May, when two boats were seized by the patrol and one of the owners was forced to pay US $ 7,500 to recover his vessel.
There are two issues: one is the issue of extortion by some Surinamese coast guard officers, and the other is the issue of Paramaribo issuing licenses to Guyanese to fish in the waters of Corentyne. Regarding the first of them, President Irfaan Ali said during the joint press conference with his Surinamese counterpart: that this has prevented the finalization of this problem, but we have reached a solution. It is hard to imagine the authorities in Suriname publicly admitting that some of their officials were corrupt, although on a private level they may be ready to follow through.
More problematic is the question of our fishermen who must first apply to Paramaribo for fishing permits in the Corentyne River. In addition, they will have to operate within the limits of a quota set by the neighboring country. While it is true that the authorities must be sensitive to the dangers of overfishing in the Corentyne, in reality, the quotas granted for this purpose beyond the mouth of the river should be the subject of an agreement between the two. parts. Guyana, however, ceded this responsibility to Paramaribo.
During a meeting with US Ambassador Sarah-Ann Lynch in April this year, a fisherman told her they were paying US $ 3,000 for a license. He also told him that he knew that Minister Mustapha had worked with the authorities in Suriname to ensure that around 150 Guyanese could receive licenses. Interestingly, it also emerged that an official from the Ministry of Agriculture suggested that fishermen acquire a Guyana permit, but after that they were told by others that it could not be used for fishing. in Suriname waters or related areas.
So where exactly are the waters of Suriname, especially since they belong to the Corentyne?
From the second half of the last century, the Surinamese adopted an aggressive posture in relation to the entire length of their border with Guyana. A draft treaty between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom in the 1930s would have given the whole of Corentyne to Suriname and the New River Triangle to what was then British Guiana. The maritime frontier was to take as its starting point a boundary marker which was set at village No. 61 and which was then to follow a line of 10o for three nautical miles across the territorial sea. The problem is that the treaty was never signed due to the intervention of the war in 1939, and after that the Surinamese nationalists pressured the authorities in The Hague not to sign it.
In 2000, Surinamese gunboats expelled a CGX platform from waters which were later determined to belong to Guyana. The aim was to use this act of force – presumably with the implicit threat of additional force if necessary – as leverage to secure concessions along the border. After a series of unsuccessful border negotiations, Guyana brought the maritime dispute to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg, which ruled in favor of the country.
The public in Suriname was shocked as they had been told by more than one government that they were sure to win. In order to soften the pill a bit, President Venetiaan then told his compatriots that the court had granted the Corentyne River to Suriname. This was not the case. The ruling did not address the status of the river at all, although in the introductory section which includes the historical background to the dispute, it is stated that in a 1799 agreement between the governors of Suriname and Berbice, the border was to walk along the west bank. of Corentyne. Not only, as already mentioned, was this not part of the judgment, but it was also inaccurate, despite the eminence of the judges. This agreement did not give Suriname ownership of the river.
Suriname behaved as if the Corentyne came under its jurisdiction long before the ITID judgment of 2007; even the establishment of the ferry across the Corentyne River was delayed for years, largely because Paramaribo was maneuvering to gain a border advantage from it. After the maritime settlement, however, the authorities in our east, as mentioned above, claimed that they had received the entire river. Where they will have effective jurisdiction is at the mouth of the river from 61 North Village following a line of 10o by three nautical miles until it meets the line which connects it to the line of equidistance dividing the two territories across the continental shelf. But let us remember, in the river proper to the south of it, the question of sovereignty has never been settled, certainly not in Orealla and in the neighboring regions, where some fishermen have told Minister Mustapha that they would often fish.
The PPP / C government, which has always had a very lenient view of Suriname’s intentions, does not appear to have questioned its insistence that our fishermen buy licenses when operating outside Suriname waters, even in upstream of Orealla. The only objections that have been raised, it seems, relate to the activities of the indigenous peoples of this village and other settlements along the Corentyne. President Ali told the press conference that there had been two complaints from indigenous residents and that the issues were resolved after the Surinamese were informed. He went on to say that the two countries were in the process of identifying officials who could address the issues raised by indigenous communities.
Suriname and Guyana informally recognize that indigenous peoples have the right to continue their traditional way of life in the river without interference from the authorities. This is, however, a special case. It’s not as if the government seems to have protested that other fishermen have to apply for permits from Paramaribo to fish there. As a result, it becomes a tacit form of acquiescence in terms of Suriname’s sovereignty claims over the Corentyne. The administration has let this happen for so long that it will arguably not be ready to pursue a course of confrontation now, let alone being reluctant to endanger the livelihoods of some of the local fishermen. . The government does not even seem ready to file a formal objection. Of course, they may have persuaded themselves that the river would be attributed to Suriname anyway if it were submitted to arbitration, so there is no point in registering their reservations now.
If so, that would mean that when it came to settling the dispute over the New River Triangle, that would be a problem in itself. This does not mean that the case of Guyana in relation to the Triangle is not excellent; Quite the opposite, in fact. However, from a negotiating standpoint, it would appear that there is some merit in this country upholding its claim on the Corentyne River – and despite recent events it is not an indefensible claim – so that both segments of the border would be considered at the same time. forum. It can be noted, for example, that when the PNC was in power before 1992, there were regular GDF river patrols in Orealla, just to inform the government in the east of the status of Corentyne. These were stopped by the PPP / C.
That aside, this country needs some clarity on the status of the river anyway: does the entire watercourse belong to Suriname, for example, or should there be a thalweg limit or following? a midline? In addition, there are also user rights issues that need to be defined. Perhaps President Ali should have had a different conversation with President Santokhi.