Expeditious but safe reopening of Guyana-Suriname border being considered – Ali
The reopening of the Guyana-Suriname border amidst raising COVID-19 cases is actively being considered by the Governments of the two neighbouring countries.
This was revealed by President Dr Irfaan Ali, who has had several engagements with his Surinamese counterpart, President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, over the past two days on a number of collaborative sectors.
Guyana closed all its borders on March 18, days after recording its first case of the novel coronavirus on March 11 following the death of 52-year-old Ratna Baboolall, who had recently returned from New York. However, Suriname had closed its border days prior after COVID-19 cases started to spike there.
As such, President Ali told reporters during a joint press briefing on Sunday at State House that issues relating to the pandemic, specifically the reopening of the border, largely occupied the agenda of the meetings.
In fact, he noted that both Guyana’s and Suriname’s Ministers of Health were a part of the meeting and have been given certain directions on this matter.
“They are to, almost immediately, begin a collaboration on the protocols and to put systems in place that will be for our review so that we can move expeditiously in returning and opening up in a manner that could bring back normalcy, but also in a manner that takes into consideration the reality of the pandemic and ensuring that the structures and systems are there to support the decisions that will be made,” the Guyanese Head of State noted.
The Guyana-Suriname border facilitates a high level of trade between the two countries and allows for efficient travel. In fact, since it’s closure, there have reports of increased illegal or ‘backtrack’ crossing – something which authorities in both countries have been grappling with for decades.
Meanwhile, in April, the villages of Orealla and Siparuta, Corentyne River, had complained about Suriname’s authorities closing access to the Corentyne River due to their implemented curfew. Residents along rivers usually have riparian rights to the waters.
However, the closure had prevented travel to and from Corriverton, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), resulting in a shortage of food and fuel, among other essentials.
This resulted in the neighbouring Governments agreeing at the time to immediately implement measures to ensure that riverine communities are able to engage in legitimate movements on the Corentyne River during the current COVID-19 lockdown.
Questioned on this, President Ali assured that this matter was also discussed.
“They were raised and we’ve committed ourselves to examine these things in-depth within a timeframe and that is why President Santokhi made it clear that this is not only business cooperation, technical cooperation or political cooperation but this is human cooperation also,” he posited.
The Guyanese leader further noted that in addition to these issues affecting the residents along the Corentyne River, he and President Santokhi also spoke about security including piracy as well as infrastructural development.
Meanwhile, other issues relating to the Guyana-Suriname border were also discussed over the past two days between the two new leaders.
These include the current ferry service as well as the construction of a bridge to link the two countries which will be further discussed by the two countries under the framework that is being prepared.