Guyana and Suriname as neighbouring countries established diplomatic relations in November 1975 and although nationals fleeing prosecution have often escaped to the two countries there was never a bilateral extradition treaty/agreement.
Suriname as a member state has not signed the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) extradition treaty because its constitution prohibits the extradition of its nationals.
Guyana and Suriname have long shared an arrangement that facilitates the deportation of wanted Guyanese back home, but not the deportation of Surinamese wanted for crimes committed in Guyana.
But coming out of the recent visit by President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, it was agreed along with President Irfaan Ali that the two sides would initiate discussions between their ministers responsible for legal affairs towards the conclusion of an extradition agreement.
The two ministers would also conclude a mutual legal assistance agreement. Ultimately, the extradition agreement would ensure that people who have done wrong in one country and run to the other would not find refuge there, but would be returned to face their punishment.
On Wednesday, in an invited comment, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, SC, said these two agreements were part of establishing a working relationship with the people and government of Suriname.
“Suriname has a different legal system from Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean. In generic terms and without identifying specifics we would have to enter into a special arrangement in order to establish this collaborative relationship with Suriname.
“What we can do with other Caribbean countries like Trinidad and Barbados, we can’t do with Suriname in some instances… we will have to fashion the agreement in keeping with what is required under the two legal system,” Nandlall explained.
It was Santokhi in June 2006 as Minister of Justice who had ordered that Guyanese drug lord Roger Khan be expelled from Suriname but instead of being deported to Guyana, he was flown to Trinidad.
That decision had received a lot of protest from former President Dési Bouterse’s party, which then formed the biggest opposition party in the Parliament of Suriname.
Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States and former President Samuel Hinds had long acknowledged the need for a treaty agreement between Guyana and Suriname in their battle to fight cross-border crime.
In 2011, notorious pirate, Kevin “Long Hair” Narine was nabbed in Suriname after escaping from the New Amsterdam Prison. Surinamese Khrishna Paul Doerga, who was serving jail time here on a fraud charge, also managed to escape to his country.
Narine was deported but Doerga was not released by the Surinamese authorities to complete his prison term in Guyana.
That case was used to expose what many said at the time was the weakness in the two countries’ crime-fighting cooperation.
The story of Doerga dates back to June 27, 2001, when he operated as a rice miller and was charged with obtaining by false pretense 4,222 bags of paddy from rice farmer Girjawantie Ganesh of No 60 Village, Corentyne. The total value of the paddy was Gy$6.3 million. Doerga was accused of writing the farmer two checks that bounced.
Although arrested, tried and sentenced, he managed to escape the New Amsterdam Prison ad returned to Suriname where he walked a free man.