Licences for Guyanese fisherfolk: Govt pursuing diplomatic solution as private sector continues to complain

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Fishing boats moored at the Number 66 Fisherman’s Co-op Society

The Guyana Government is actively working to resolve the ongoing fishermen licence issue, in order for Guyanese to operate and fish in Surinamese waters.

This was communicated by President Dr Irfaan Ali on Friday, expressing that Government is not happy with the way fisherfolk are currently treated. However, action is being taken and he further assured that this matter will not affect pending areas of interest between the two countries.

“When you’re in Government, you have to run Government in a very responsible way. It’s a mature thing to be in Government. The President is not an immature position to be in. We have one issue with fishing. That has not affected the other issues… Are we happy with the way the fishermen are treated? No, we’re not happy. Are we taking steps? Yes, we’re taking steps,” Ali commented.

Addressing the effects of this situation, the Head of State shared that his Administration is concerned about the private sector’s view and the effects created from this situation. However, he reiterated that it is being handled from a diplomatic standpoint.

“It affects the way in which the private sector view things, of course, because the private sector is complaining and we’re very concerned.  We are approaching this fishing issue from a diplomatic level, applying all the measures that the Government can apply and finding a solution. That is what we’re working towards.”

The matter of Suriname’s harassment of Guyanese fishermen and the Dutch-speaking republic’s continued refusal to grant licences to them, has been a topical issue in recent times that even escalated to the point where Guyana’s Ambassador in Suriname, Keith George, was summoned last month to a meeting with the Surinamese Foreign Minister, Krishna Mathoera, on this very issue.

Following the high-level meeting in Guyana during August 2021 between President Dr Irfaan Ali and Surinamese President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, the two leaders had issued a joint press statement indicating that the age-old issue of licences for Guyanese fisherfolk to operate in Suriname’s territorial waters would be addressed.

These fishermen operate from the Corentyne coast and have to use the Corentyne to get access to the Atlantic where they get most of their catch. The Corentyne River is considered Surinamese territory. Currently, the licences are issued to Surinamese businessmen at US$100 per year and rented to the Guyanese fisherfolk at US$3000 annually.

About 150 boats operate from the Number 66 Fisherman’s Co-op Society, thus providing direct employment for about 800 fishermen. Additionally, some 200 persons are employed in providing services which include transportation, fish vending and repairs to machinery and equipment. Guyana has already said that it will be bringing this matter before the Caribbean Community (Caricom), since Suriname is also a member state.

Email correspondence sent from high officials in the Surinamese Government, to their Guyanese counterparts, revealed that Suriname had promised Guyana, that the fishing licence for Guyanese to fish in Surinamese waters would have been issued on January 1, 2021.

In the email dated December 13, 2020, which was seen by this publication, Surinamese Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Prahlad Sewdien had written to Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha, informing him that the fishing licences would be issued from January 1 of the next year and that they would try to have preparations completed within two weeks. The email also acknowledged the list of fishermen that Mustapha had sent to Sewdien, while also suggesting various actions that should be taken to complete the process of issuing the licence, under Surinamese law.

Despite previous promises, Suriname has failed to issue to Guyanese fishermen licences to operate in Surinamese waters.

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