The boundary with Suriname: The tri-junction point

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In 1929 information circulated about the possibility of oil existing in Suriname and British Guiana in the vicinity of the Corentyne River. This led to proposals, set out in a letter, dated 7 August 1929, from the Dutch Minister to the British Foreign Office for the conclusion of a border treaty between the two countries. The Dutch Minister said that there was a special reason for concluding such a treaty since the Brazilian Government then wished to demarcate its boundaries with British Guiana and Suriname and this could not be done unless the point at which the frontiers of the three countries met was determined. The reference here was to a treaty signed in 1926 by Britain and Brazil for the demarcation of the frontier between Brazil and British Guiana. Article 2 of that Treaty stated that: "The British Guiana/Brazil frontier shall lie along the watershed between the Amazon basin and the basins of the Essequibo and Corentyne Rivers as far as the point of junction or convergence of the frontier of the two countries with Dutch Guiana. . . ."

The treaty also provided for the setting up of a Commission to demarcate the frontier. The Netherlands Government was notified of the proposed work of the Commission and invited to participate. In fact, the method of determining the point at which the boundaries of the three countries met was suggested by the Netherlands Government, who, in their Note to the British Government of 27 February 1933, proposed that the boundary between Suriname and British Guiana should follow ". . . . the path Trombetas-Kutari from its extremity on the Kutari leading over a rock, by Farabee called 'Farogle', till its point of contact with the Brazilian frontier. This point of contact will be the tri-junction point. . . ."

To this Note the British Government replied by letter on 27 June 1933 that they were prepared "in certain circumstances" to adopt the proposals put forward by the Netherlands Government for the demarcation of this boundary near to the Brazilian frontier. The "certain circumstances" were explained to be the following: "If, therefore, the source of the River Kutari should prove not to lie on the watershed separating the basin of the River Amazon from the basins of the rivers Essequibo and Corantyne, or, alternatively if the determination of the source of this river should prove a matter of great practical difficulty, considerable time and expense might be saved were the Boundary Commissioners themselves left free to adopt the line of boundary as suggested by the Netherlands Government. . . ."

In response, the Netherlands Legation in London "noted with great satisfaction that His Majesty's Government agree to the proposals put forward . . . regarding the demarcation of the Surinam-British Guiana Boundary". The tri-junction point was eventually fixed at the point indicated in the Dutch Note of 27 February 1933.

On 25 April 1935, the Dutch themselves submitted to the British Foreign Office a draft of instructions which the Dutch Government suggested should be issued to "the Respective Commissions for the defining of the tri-junction of the boundaries of Surinam, British Guiana and Brazil".

In accordance with these instructions and with the deliberate concurrence of the representatives of all three countries, the tri-junction point was duly fixed in 1936 at the source of the Kutari River, the point suggested by the Dutch in their Note of 27 February 1933. The Dutch representative on the Commission was Admiral Kayser who signed the map together with the Brazilian and British Commissioners.