See below for the full statement from Guyana’s Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry:
The following is a timeline of the political and diplomatic efforts made by the Government of Guyana to secure SK fishing licenses for its fisherfolk to fish in Surinamese waters off the Atlantic Coast:
- This issue was discussed at the Presidential level in 2020. Following, at the first meeting of the Agriculture Working Group under the SDCP, which was convened in Suriname in November 2020, Guyana requested that Suriname issues 150 SK licenses to Guyanese fishermen to fish offshore Suriname.
- In agreeing to the granting of the licenses, the Government of Suriname 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. 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 Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries of Suriname also requested the names of the middlemen from whom the Guyanese fishermen were renting their licenses. Further, 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 Foreign Ministers of Guyana and Suriname also remained in communication on the issue. Guyana’s Foreign Minister wrote to his Surinamese counterpart, Minister Albert Ramdin on 13 August 2021, reminding him of Suriname’s commitment to issue the licenses.
- The Presidents of Guyana and Suriname met between 17-20 August 2021 in Georgetown and discussed the issuance of SK fishing licences to Guyanese fisherfolk. The Joint Communique issued by the Presidents from those discussions committed “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.”
- 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.
- Minister Todd received a response dated January 6, 2022, from his Surinamese counterpart 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.
- At the Guyana/ Suriname/ Brazil Tripartite Summit which was held in Suriname, on 20 January 2022, the Presidents of Guyana and Suriname met, and the licenses were again discussed. President Santokhi then indicated that he remains committed to the issuance of SK licenses to Guyanese fishermen.
- Guyana did not receive any further formal or substantive communication from Suriname on the issue.
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.
It is evident that the diplomatic engagement has so far not reaped the desired outcome.
Guyana remains committed to good neighbourly relations with Suriname.