President Irfaan Ali is currently in neighbouring Suriname, where he is engaging his counterpart, President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, on many of the issues which were brought to the fore when the Surinamese leader visited Guyana back in August. Working groups have been established to follow through with these issues, to ensure that they are dealt with in a speedy manner to the benefit of the people of both countries.
Among the highlights of the President’s visit is the issue in relation to the bridging of the Corentyne River, linking the two countries. There were discussions and a subsequent signing of the formal agreement that would now pave the way for the two sides to begin exploring financing options for the construction and operation of the facility.
It could be recalled that this transformational project had been in the pipeline for some time now, and we are very pleased that the two leaders have decided to place it back on the agenda. From both sides of the river, many persons have expressed the need for such a bridge to physically link the two countries, and it is now expected that serious efforts would be made to ensure it becomes a reality.
It is well known that many Guyanese have taken up permanent residence in Suriname over the years, and there is some amount of trade/business being done between the two countries. Thus, the bridge across the Corentyne River would considerably enhance trade and economic relations, as well as cultural exchanges, between Guyana and Suriname.
The Governments of Guyana and Suriname have recognised the enormous benefits the bridge can bring in the areas of transportation, tourism and trade. Important to note, too, is that once constructed, the bridge would not only serve as a permanent physical link between Guyana and Suriname, but also to the rest of the South American continent. This in itself will allow Guyana to access a whole host of opportunities relative to commerce etc.
That said, Guyana and Suriname have a history of enjoying good neighbourly relations, and there are many areas which both sides can explore to the benefit of all. For example, now that both countries have proven to have vast resources of oil and gas, it would be in their interest to develop synergies and work collaboratively, especially considering the fact that they are both relatively small.
President Ali has already revealed that the two countries have recognised the need to develop synergies in relation to the oil and gas sector. He was quoted as saying: “In terms of shore-base and deep-water harbour, we are exploring synergies, and this is where we are when we talk about local content. Because of how the industry would emerge, you can either be in direct competition with each other, or you can be supporting each other with synergies that bring benefits to both countries.”
Additionally, there is need for both countries to work more collaboratively to tackle the issue of cross- border crime. The fact that criminal elements are using the borders between the two countries to carry out criminal activities poses a serious threat to both countries’ national security. We had previously called for the borders between the two countries to be tightened up so as to prevent the level of illegal activities that are taking place.
Also, in view of the many robberies at sea, it is crucial that both countries share information and work together to address this challenge, which has been having a severe impact on the fishing industries of our countries. Over the years, many of our fisherfolks have been attacked at sea, most times in Surinamese waters. Sometimes law enforcement officers seem lost as to how to tackle the problem, and one may even assume that there is limited collaboration between the two sides to catch the perpetrators.
It is our hope that the current engagements between the Governments of Guyana and Suriname would bring about positive results, as it is clear that both sides are eager to move ahead with various projects that would see a better quality of life for their citizens.