GEORGETOWN, Guyana (GINA) -- The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Coast Guard will soon begin joint patrol operations with their counterparts from Suriname to maintain security along the Corentyne River and within the coastline of the two countries.
The joint operation is among several resolutions coming out of a two-day high security sector meeting last week between the two countries in Paramaribo, Suriname.
Minister of Home Affairs, Clement Rohee; GDF Chief-of-Staff and Rear Admiral Gary Best; Commissioner of Police, Leroy Brummel; and Commissioner General, Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), Khurshid Sattaur attended the meetings that were aimed at expanding cooperation, particularly in the areas of law enforcement and revenue protection.
The Guyanese delegation on Friday shared with the media some of the outcomes from the meetings which covered several issues including trafficking in persons and narcotics, weapons and arms smuggling, illegal migration, piracy and smuggling in goods and services.
Rear Admiral Best said that he specifically engaged the Suriname nationals on discussions of trans-border crime and how the military could work with law enforcement agencies. “We discussed specifically joint operations in support of the police forces of the nations and joint operations in the Corentyne River.”
He mentioned that the modalities of those operations are still to be worked out, but essentially, both countries will have their resources in the river that would be manned by law enforcement personnel.
Best explained that the next stage is for the technical people from both sides to meet to work out the logistics.
“The issue of jurisdiction obviously has to be dealt with and that will be dealt with at the highest level, the two attorneys general (Ag) would meet on the issue… what I envision happening is that if you are probably closer to the Guyana side, you will probably be arrested by Guyanese officials, if you are closer to the Suriname side you be arrested by Surinamese officials and taken to Suriname,” he said.
Best added that what the two sides are attempting to do is to work within the river and avoid the issue of any conflict over the rights. The AGs will have to meet, he said, to determine the issue of right to arrest, jurisdiction and other important aspects that are necessary for the law enforcement activity. The technical people will meet to determine the types of vessels that will be in the river.
He also estimates that the joint patrol operations can begin within six months.
Also discussed was mutual support for the development of the militaries, training support and exchanges for Surinamese through Guyana’s Officer Cadet School.
There was also the exchange of lines of communication for information exchange between the two countries’ intelligence services.
“We gave numbers and gave where persons could be contacted,” Police Commissioner Brummel explained.
Discussion with regards to revenue collection addressed slippages that allow for illegal smuggling of goods that would return both countries to the point where they once were, Sattaur explained.
The GRA head said that goods in excess of US$10 million are being imported from Suriname and in excess of US$5 million in taxes are collected on landing.
“In recent times, because of lapses on the part of both parties …there have been some slippages and we observed those slippages becoming almost like a threat going back to the period as when we were not collecting as much revenue that we were recently collecting despite putting in place some measures to counter it at our end.”
Sattaur said his counterparts were receptive to some of the instances and some of the joint endeavours that were suggested. He disclosed that in this regard, a GRA team was travelling to Suriname to meet with their counterparts to do some assessment of “where the blames can be cast, which side of the border, because we observed that big boats are actually loaded in Suriname, (are) transferred to small boats in midstream and some of the smaller (boats) end up back in Suriname with smuggled goods which concern the Surinamese authorities and some of the smuggled goods end up in Guyana causing quite a number of concerns to the legitimate businesses,… our law enforcement team is put under quite a number of pressure to deal with this scourge,” he said.
“We have discussed ways and means in which we can endeavour to meet together regularly, whether they come here or (we) go there to inspect records that they have in their bonds… they have established what you call in-transit bonds where goods go there from Holland and then (are) shipped to other parts of the world… when it is shipped from bond it is duty free. When it arrives at your port it becomes dutiable,” he explained.
Minister Rohee said that the meetings were extremely fruitful and will redound to the interest of both countries.
“From the point of view of international cooperation, it helps to solidify the bilateral relations. This engagement in our view has grown from strength to strength and bodes well, not only for the two jurisdictions, but for the respective institutions that engage with each other… I left Suriname with a sense of high optimism, the degree of cordiality and conviviality between us and Surinamese counterparts. I do not think we could have expected better. The energy is there, the chemistry is there, and within our two countries particularly within these two matters I think that we are doing well,” Rohee said.
He reaffirmed that he too left Suriname convinced that they were prepared to work on a mutually beneficial basis with Guyana.
“It is in their interest, it is in our interest, trans-border, cross-border, trans-national crime is something we have to fight together… and given the history and the cultural relations between Guyana and Suriname it would seem to me that we do not have a choice but to work together,” he said.
Rohee was later questioned whether there was any discussion about an extradition treaty with Suriname to easily exchange prisoners. He explained that Suriname is a Member of the Organisation of American States and signatory to the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty, of which Guyana is also a signatory. Within the meaning of that treaty both countries have access to each, to collaborate and cooperate, Rohee said.
He said that the treaty spells out criminal activity, but outside of this, since Guyana and Suriname are neighbouring countries, “We have explored and will explore the possibility of a bilateral extradition treaty between the two countries.”
“Suriname prepares to engage and explore that possibility, and we left the country with the understanding and the agreement that they are committed to working to that endeavour,” he said.
Engagements between Guyana and Suriname with regards to security sector collaboration began in 2011 and were the brainchild of former president Bharrat Jagdeo and Surinamese head of state, Desi Bouterse.
Over the last two years, with regard to the security meetings, three have been conducted; the first in Guyana and the other two in Suriname.