Guyana condemns Venezuela’s intrusion
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Detained:( from left)  Joel Joseph, Nick Raghubar,Javin Boston ,Orland Roberts, Captain of the Lady Nayera, Richard Ramnarine and Shirvin Oneil
Detained:( from left) Joel Joseph, Nick Raghubar,Javin Boston ,Orland Roberts, Captain of the Lady Nayera, Richard Ramnarine and Shirvin Oneil

–calls for immediate release of Guyanese fishermen detained in Venezuela
–vessels seized in the Waini River, boat captain says has evidence they were in local waters
–families of fishermen deeply worried, appeal for immediate release of relatives

 

FOR years Guyanese fishermen have plied their noble trade unhindered along the Waini River, but this comfortable practice was obstructed recently when Venezuelan naval troops reportedly entered Guyana’s territory and apprehended two vessels, the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf, which are both owned and operated by Guyanese.
This act of ‘intrusion’ by Venezuela has since been condemned by local authorities, which have substantiated claims that both vessels, which were operating off the coast of the Waini Point, within Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), were intercepted by Venezuelan naval vessel, “Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24”, on Thursday, January 21, 2021.
An exclusive economic zone, as prescribed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is an area of the sea in which a sovereign State has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.
Guyana holds the firm view that the Venezuelan vessel was illegally manoeuvring within Guyana’s EEZ and contiguous zone when it intercepted, boarded and commandeered the Guyanese fishing vessels.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd

According to information from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Captain Richard Ramnarine, of the Lady Nayera, and Captain Toney Garraway, of the Sea Wolf, after being apprehended in the Waini area, were instructed to chart a course to Port Güiria in Venezuela, where both vessels, which are registered in Essequibo, and the 12-member crew, who hail from Essequibo, have been detained. The Guyana Chronicle was informed on Sunday that the crew members of the Sea Wolf include Garraway, Errol Gardener, Orland Roberts, Christopher Shaw, Shirvin Oneil and Randy Henry. The crew members aboard the Lady Nayera are Ramnarine, Ramlakan Kamal, Nick Raghubar, Javin Boston, Michael Domingo and Joel Joseph.

Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha

From all indications, none of the crew members have been harmed, but details of their exact location in Venezuela are still unknown.
Ramnarine, in a voice note shared with this publication early Sunday, confirmed at the time that the crew members were not harmed, but said that he was unsure where the Venezuelan authorities are taking them. “We have the boat with everything: The seine, fish; the glue. Everything is alright; the boat is at a marine place. We giving a statement here at the wharf, and they said we have to go to the station to make another statement,” the boat captain said, adding: “I do not know what will be the next step; they taking down our name, but the boat and everything safe.” It was clear that the boat captain was complying with the orders of the Venezuelan authorities, but he was still bewildered as to why they were apprehended in the first place.
“My boat was driving when I was apprehended by the coast guard [Venezuelan navy]; my net was out of the water, and I was not in Venezuela water either,” Ramnarine said.

SOLID PROOF

The Lady Nayera, while it was docked at home, here in Guyana

The boat captain went as far as to say that he has evidence to prove that his vessel was eight miles up the Waini River, and in no way close to Venezuelan territory.
Although there have been unofficial reports about the well-being of the fishermen, the Government of Guyana has not yet been informed by the Government of Venezuela of the detention of its nationals. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently seeking to ascertain the status and welfare of the crew members.
Owner of the Sea Wolf vessel, Kumar Lalbachan, when contacted by this publication on Sunday, said both the Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier Godfrey Bess, and Commissioner of Police (ag), Nigel Hoppie visited the lodging site of the vessels, “Big Bird Fisheries” in Essequibo to speak with relatives of the crew members.
“The officials held a meeting with the family of the persons who were detained; it was a very fruitful meeting, I would say… Prior to the meeting, we got a message that everything is okay, and that they will be releasing one of the boats by tomorrow [today],” Lalbachan said, adding that he, however, has to confirm whether the boat will actually be released.
In the message received from his crew members, the boat owner was advised to send the documents for his boat; an order which he complied with.
The documents have since been sent via WhatsApp, but the Guyana Chronicle understands that the crew members do not have access to quality Wi-Fi, and would only get proper connection during certain hours of the day.

Access to Internet and other communication channels have not only obstructed communication between the boat owners and their crew members, but also the families of those men who are being held captive. Ramnarine’s wife, Sita Ramnarine, who was evidently worried about her husband’s well-being, has also condemned the fact that the boat captain has not been afforded a proper opportunity to contact local authorities. “We didn’t hear anything directly as yet; they are not getting proper signal… Hopefully, early in the morning or so, or late in the afternoon tomorrow [today], I will be able to contact him,” Sita said during a telephone interview with this publication on Sunday.
She was particularly sad because her husband was expected home in a matter of days, because he had already spent about 13 days at sea.
“Tuesday would have been 15 days for them, and they would be home for Thursday… When they go out to sea, it usually takes 16 to 17 days to return,” the boat captain’s wife said, noting that the fishing route has been the same for all the years, so it is bewildering that the Venezuelans would choose to commit such an act now.

SHOW OF AGGRESSION
The Government of Guyana has considered this act a wanton show of aggression by the Venezuelan armed forces against Guyana and Guyanese citizens.
“This Venezuelan action amounts to an interference with the sovereign rights of Guyana in its EEZ, contrary to international law,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
What is more disturbing, is that this act comes on the heels of the issuance of a decree by President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, claiming Venezuela’s sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights in the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River.
Based on reports emanating from Venezuela, the decree points to the creation of a strategic zone for national development, called the “Territory for the Development of the Atlantic Façade”, which the Bolivarian Republic envisages will provide it adequate protection, and safeguard its jurisdiction. However, since Guyana has sovereign rights over the coast west of the Essequibo River, as far as Punta Playa, it follows, consequently, that only Guyana can enjoy sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights over the adjacent sea and seabed.

“I remind that sovereignty over this coast and the land territory to which it is attached, were awarded to Guyana (then British Guiana) in the 1899 Arbitral Award, whose validity and legally binding character Guyana is confident the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will uphold unequivocally,” President Dr. Irfaan Ali affirmed during a recent address to the nation.
He said that, regrettably, by decreeing that the seas adjacent to this territory belong to Venezuela, at least two fundamental principles of international law have been violated.
In the first violation, as outlined by President Ali, no State can unilaterally determine its international boundaries, whether land or maritime. President Ali contended that the fixing of an international boundary, under international law, can only result from an agreement between neighbouring States, or a binding determination by an international court or arbitral tribunal.
“Therefore, this attempt by Venezuela to attempt, unilaterally, to fix both its land and maritime boundaries with Guyana is a legal nullity, which cannot, and will not, be respected by any other State in the world, including Guyana,” the Head of State affirmed.
The second violation of fundamental international law referenced by President Ali is based on the fact that under well-established rules of international law, there is a fundamental principle that says, “the land dominates the sea”.
This means that sovereignty and sovereign rights in the sea and seabed emanate from title to the land that forms the coast to which those seas and seabed are adjacent.

‘ABDUCTION’
Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha reiterated the Government’s position on this issue, but specifically condemned the ‘abduction’ of Guyanese fishermen.
“We are very concerned, because the people are claiming that they are in our water, so it is illegal to hold them up,” Minister Mustapha said in an invited comment on Sunday.
The vessels, he said, fall under the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Fisheries, so the issue demands his direct attention as well.
“A notice was dispatched by the Foreign Affairs Ministry to Venezuela, and we have spoken to the owners of the vessel,” the minister said.
Each family member, when contacted by this publication, said they are eagerly awaiting the return of their relatives, because, in some cases, they are the sole breadwinner of the house. The Government of Guyana has demanded the immediate release of the crew and vessels.

It further exhorts the Government of Venezuela, and its agents, to behave in a manner consistent with international law, and good neighbourly relations. The international community, the Government of Guyana said, will be kept informed of all actions undertaken by Venezuela to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.
The Commonwealth, CARICOM, United States of America and Canada have all signalled their full support for Guyana in this ongoing border controversy which is before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).  Guyana is seeking to obtain a final and binding judgement that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the location of the land boundary between the then British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid, and that the Essequibo region belongs to Guyana, and not Venezuela.
Most recently, the ICJ, on December 18, 2020, ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the Guyana, Venezuela border controversy case. It was reported that Guyana is confident that the international court will resolve the issue in its favour, and that this will also settle the issue of maritime rights in the adjacent sea and seabed. But, under international law, this is now for the ICJ to decide. This judicial process is one which international and regional stakeholders support, because they believe it will bring a peaceful end to the controversy.

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