President Dr Irfaan Ali and his Surinamese counterpart, President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, have had a series of meetings over the past two days on a number of collaborative sectors and among those discussions was the reopening of the Guyana-Suriname border.
Guyana closed all its borders on March 18, days after recording its first case of the novel coronavirus on March 11 following the death of 52-year-old Ratna Baboolall, who had recently returned from New York. Suriname had since followed suit after COVID-19 cases started to spike there.
As such, President Ali told reporters during a joint press briefing today at State House that issues relating to the pandemic, specifically the reopening of the border, largely occupied the agenda of the meeting.
In fact, he noted that both Guyana’s and Suriname’s Ministers of Health were apart of the meeting and have been given certain directions on this matter.
“They are to, almost immediately, begin a collaboration on the protocols and to put systems in place that will be for our review so that we can move expeditiously in returning and opening up in a manner that could bring back normalcy, but also in a manner that takes into consideration the reality of the pandemic and ensuring that the structures and systems are there to support the decisions that will be made,” the Guyanese Head of State noted.
The Guyana-Suriname border facilitates a high level of trade between the two countries and allows for efficient travel.
Meanwhile, in April, the villages of Orealla and Siparuta had complained about Suriname’s authorities closing access to the Corentyne River due to their implemented curfew. Residents along rivers usually have riparian rights to the waters.
However, the closure had prevented travel to and from Corriverton resulting in a shortage of food and fuel, among other essentials.
At the time, the neighbouring governments had agreed to immediately implement measures to ensure that riverine communities are able to engage in legitimate movements on the Corentyne River during the current COVID-19 lockdown.
Questioned on this, President Ali assured that this matter was also discussed.
“They were raised and we’ve committed ourselves to examine these things in-depth within a timeframe and that is why President Santokie made it clear that this is not only business cooperation, technical cooperation or political cooperation but this is human cooperation also,” he posited.
The Guyanese leader further noted that in addition to these issues affecting the residents along the Corentyne River, he and President Santokhi also spoke about security including piracy.