The Surinamese Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries Prahlad Sewdien did indeed commit to granting fishing licences to Guyanese fishermen, an email shared in the Surinamese Parliament shows.
On Tuesday, Surinamese opposition parliamentarian Melvin Bouva presented an email correspondence between Sewdien and Guyana’s Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha. It is dated December 13, 2020.
That correspondence, seen by the News Room, stated that the Surinamese government will issue fishing licences to Guyana.
“Starting from 1st January we will issue the fishing licences for 2021,” Minister Sewdien wrote in the email to Mustapha.
He added, “Let we try to have the preparation work done within the next 2 weeks.”
Guyanese authorities repeatedly assured the public that this promise was made, stating that they have evidence to prove the same.
But that’s not all.
Based on the email, Sewdien made additional proposals to improve the licensing arrangement for Guyanese fishermen in keeping with the Dutch-speaking country’s Fisheries Act.
He proposed that a government-owned company be appointed to act as the business partner for Guyanese fishermen and to facilitate the signing of a “vesselbasing” agreement to simplify the process.
“This company will take care of the further registration of the vessels over here and also take care of the licences by which your fishermen will just pay the normal fees.
“This company will also sign the purchase and other agreements needed with your fishermen,” Sewdien wrote.
Because of the proximity of Guyana’s Berbice county and Suriname, fishing in Surinamese waters has been ongoing for decades. Based on Surinamese law, however, it is illegal for Guyanese fisherfolk to obtain licenses to fish there and Guyanese have been engaging in a costly, exploitative arrangement to be able to fish.
Guyanese fisherfolk have also admitted to duplicating licences.
Over the past two years, these two neighbouring countries have been deepening cooperation, with plans to jointly develop offshore oil and gas resources central to the partnership.
Apparently stemming from the deepening relations, President Dr. Irfaan Ali announced last year that Surinamese authorities will issue those much-needed fishing licenses directly to Guyanese.
This announcement was made during a joint press conference held at the end of Suriname’s President Chandrikapersad Santokhi visit to Guyana in August 2021. Subsequently, it was noted that 150 special SK licenses would be provided by the Dutch-speaking country to Guyanese fisherfolk.
Importantly, Sewdien’s email did not specifically state which licence would be provided or the amount of licences the Surinamese government would grant.