Even as representatives of the Guyana and Suriname governments prepare to hold talks in the coming days over that former Dutch colony’s new rules governing Guyanese minibuses, Georgetown already finds the new systems as humbugs to free movement
The Foreign Ministry in Georgetown already said on Thursday that one of the new rules- the need for Guyanese buses to be licenses in Suriname- violates a 16-year old accord between the two neighbouring South American countries.
“In the meantime, the Ministry has recently learnt that another requirement instituted by the Surinamese authorities is that Guyanese operators need to apply for a license to operate from Guyana to Paramaribo.
This requirement and the one previously mentioned are inconsistent with the Cross Border Protocol of October 22, 1998,” stated the Foreign Ministry in a statement.
Guyana and Suriname are members of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Union of South American States (UNASUR) that promote the free movement of persons and the integration of infrastructure such as roads, bridges and ferries for cross-border transportation of goods and people.
The Foreign Ministry said its Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett intervened in the matter and has been in constant contact with Suriname’s Foreign Minister, Winston Lackin. Eventually, the two sides agreed to hold talks.
“Today (Thursday), Hon. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett again spoke with her Surinamese counterpart and they both recognize the good neighborly relations that exist between Guyana and Suriname, which has in part facilitated the increase movement of people between the two countries. They have agreed that the resolution of the matter is urgent and that a Meeting between the two sides must be convened soonest. The necessary arrangements are being made for the meeting to take place,” said the Foreign Ministry in its statement.
The need for Guyanese minibuses to be licensed by Suriname to ply the cross-country route is on top of an earlier requirement that they must be transport the same passengers on their return trip to Guyana. “More specifically, they indicated that the new requirement is that they have to transport the identical passengers they brought from Guyana on their return from Suriname. Needless to say this requirement is impractical given that persons have varying lengths of stay and passengers might also be traveling one way only,” added the ministry.
The Foreign Ministry recalled that on December 19, 2014, the Embassy of Guyana in Paramaribo was informed by four mini bus operators that the Surinamese authorities had instituted new requirements for buses plying the route from Guyana to Paramaribo.
According to the Ministry, the Guyana Embassy immediately contacted the Surinamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs who promised to speak with their custom authorities and revert with information pertaining to the issue.
Having received no information, on December 24, 2014, Rodrigues-Birkett spoke to Lackin explaining that the new requirement has serious implications for free movement between the two countries, especially since tourism and general movement between Guyana and Suriname have been growing. Minister Lackin promised to get more information on the matter and that he will do his best to have it resolved.
The Embassy of Guyana also continued to follow up with the Foreign Ministry in Suriname but no formal transmission of the new requirements has been received to date.