— says outgoing Chairman
VENEZUELA’S ‘threatening’ posture in the ongoing border controversy with Guyana had increased tensions among the countries earlier this year, but outgoing Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley, believes that the bloc’s principled position on the matter contributed significantly to the ‘heat’ being abated.
From all indications, Venezuela early this year seemed bent on arbitrarily laying claim to Guyana’s territory, with its naval forces intruding on Guyana’s maritime space.
Increased activity by Venezuela’s naval vessels and other forces in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) started after Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro issued a decree claiming Venezuela’s sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights over the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River.
Despite outright condemnation of Venezuela’s latest claims and global recognition of Guyana’s sovereign rights over the contested area, a naval vessel attached to the Bolivarian Republic, just days after the issuance of the decree, entered Guyana’s territory and abducted 12 fishermen, who have since been released.
Heads of Government of CARICOM had noted, with satisfaction, that the cumulative effort of the Region contributed to the unconditional release of the fishing vessels and crew.
Using the collective effort of member states in this matter and as a basis for showing the strength of CARICOM, Dr. Rowley at the opening of the first day of the 42nd Regular Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government, said the unequivocal, principled position the bloc took in smouldering the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela earlier this year went a long way in bringing “us to a place where the heat has been abated.”
In March 2018, Guyana had filed its application in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking an affirmation of the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award and the international boundary that it established. The ICJ ruled on December 18, 2020, that it has jurisdiction to hear the border controversy case.
Guyana is seeking to obtain a final and binding judgement that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the location of the land boundary between then British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid, and that the Essequibo region belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.
Venezuela has been saying for the longest while that it is not interested in having this matter resolved by the court.
But CARICOM and other international stakeholders believe that the ongoing judicial process will bring a peaceful and definitive end to this matter, especially if Venezuela participates in the process.
A peaceful conclusion to its border controversy with Venezuela remains Guyana’s aim, but with the opposing state insisting on aggression, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and President of Guyana, Dr. Irfaan Ali, has affirmed that his nation will not cower in the face of threats against national security.
“As President of our beloved country, my single most important responsibility is to keep the Guyanese people safe. It is the first thing I think about when I wake [up] in the morning. It is the last thing on my mind at night. And my working day is consumed by it.
“But I want no mistake made about it: my government is doing all in its power to vigorously protect our people’s health and our country’s territorial integrity. Just as we will not relent in the battle against COVID-19, so will we not bend to threats to our national security…we may be a small country, but we are a proud people. We have no military might, but we have moral and legal rights. We pick fights with no one, but we will resist threats from anyone,” President Ali said during a recent address to the nation.