Only time will tell whether President Irfaan Ali’s recent visit to Suriname would mark a defining turning point and – for Guyana and Suriname alike – a mutually beneficial turning point in bilateral relations. Those who have followed the history of their relationship would be aware that they were punctuated by events arising from the paradox of Suriname’s territorial allegation against Guyana, on the one hand and on the other desirable between the two countries characterized by the presence of a significant Guyanese population living in Suriname as well as continued growth in cross-border commercial relations.
Now it seems that the good fortune of significant oil discoveries from both countries is about to set them on a path to an even closer bilateral relationship that could go beyond anything that has transpired before. President Ali’s Paramaribo visit seems to have underlined, perhaps even further summarized, an awareness that both countries could benefit from embracing the co-operative possibilities of proximity in pursuit oil recovery and the economic rewards that may result. It could be added that such cooperation in developing a shared infrastructure as suggested in the joint statement arising from President Ali’s visit could, arguably, be sufficiently substantial and mutually satisfying as that it allows much less weight to be put on the territorial claim. although it must be admitted that the history of territorial claims does not suggest that this could be taken for granted.
For the moment, however, it is the huge potential that repeats in this week’s announcement of a possible deepwater harbor to support oil-related activities in both countries of more uplifting significance. If such a project – along with the transition of the Corentyne River – can come to fruition in the coming period (and it is understood here that such a project will take much more than this initial expression of intent on paper) shifting the focus of both. countries away from the border issue and in the direction of explore more aggressively the potential for further expansion of bilateral cooperation. Be warned, however, that territorial claims / disputes, historically, do not have a reputation for wind extinction.
As two of South America’s poorest nations, however, Guyana and Suriname are not advised to look what a bloody type gift horse in the mouth. Here, it must be said that the governments and peoples of Guyana and Suriname need to understand that the transformation of oil that could change games into the development of nations and peoples is time consuming and consistently applied and disciplined to the task in hand. Poor underdeveloped countries afflicted by disease of all kinds of domestic distractions have not always tended to show that discipline and focus. If history is anything to go by the spirit of optimism and promise embodied in what now seems to be the desire of the political administrations in Georgetown and Paramaribo, the focus and momentum must required to approach. .
It must be said that while the historical closeness of the links that have existed between the peoples of Guyana and Suriname are positive portraits, on the one hand, there is work to be done on both sides to ensure that the future is not ruined. by the terror of the territorial allegation.