Guyana President: continue cooperation but claim on Tigri remains

GEORGETOWN, Guyana–Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo has brushed aside attempts to resuscitate the border dispute between Guyana and Suriname as a focal point of the relationship between the two countries, Guyana’s National Communications Network has reported. According to the medium, the Guyanese leader has instead insisted that Guyana should continue with cooperation with Suriname, working together on many other fronts without them giving up its claim on the Tigri territory in the southwest corner of Suriname.

NCN reports that “the recent pronouncement by President Desi Bouterse to challenge the decree on the New River Triangle (Tigri) did not come as disturbing news to President Bharrat Jagdeo. The Guyanese leader pointed to the agreement that the two countries share on strengthening relations.”

NCN further reports that Cabinet Secretary Dr. Roger luncheon at a media briefing on Wedneday told reporters that the issue is of insignificance given the relations the two countries share. “Its mere presence is not going to affect the rather burgeoning engagements that at the presidential level being cultivated between the two countries and I could attest to that” the Cabinet Secretary Said. Luncheon said specific attention was paid to the issue when the two leaders held a joint press conference last year.  “It’s there, you can’t ignore its existence but the small two developing countries can’t be locked into resolution or border issue between us, more fundamental collaboration”

President Bouterse told the National Assembly on June 7th that Suriname will be revisiting the issue of claim on the new river triangle with a friendly settlement approach based on international law. “Let’s be clear on this; the Tigri area is our land,” Bouterse said. Guyana may claim the area, but Suriname stays true to its claim and considers the Guyanese occupation of the disputed land trespassing.

The triangular shaped Tigri area in south west Suriname has been a point of dispute between the two nations since 1840. Both countries claim the zone between the Upper Corantyne, the Coeroeni and the Koetari rivers, known to the Guyanese as the New River Triangle. Suriname considers the area part of the Coeroenie area of District Sipaliwini, whereas the Guyanese consider it part of their East Berbice-Corentyne region. Since 1969, when Guyanese soldiers forcably claimed Tigri, the area has been under Guyanese rule, leaving the conflict simmering below the surface.

It sparked briefly in 2000, when Canadian oil company CGX started drilling in the disputed area with Guyanese authorization, and Suriname sent out its navy to stop operations.  Guyana and Suriname have since put their differences on the CGX issue aside and forged a new partnership agenda to a further concretization of relations.

Suriname also has a border dispute with east neighbor French Guiana.