THE Government of Guyana through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a strong statement on September 7 in which it made its position pellucidly clear that it will not recognise any ‘accord’ made between the Venezuela Government and the country’s political opposition as it relates to Guyana’s sovereignty. That “accord” was reportedly made at a meeting in Mexico between the two sides which seem to have nothing in common politically, except on the issue of the preposterous claim by Venezuela to Guyana’s territory.
The ‘accord’ is an affront to the judicial process currently before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or what is referred to as the World Court. It would be recalled that the matter was referred to the ICJ on the insistence of the Government of Guyana, with a view to bringing about a final solution to the border dispute. The court in December last ruled that it has jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter, after an objection was made by Venezuela regarding the Court’s jurisdiction to determine the matter.
According to President Ali, the ICJ’s ruling is lawful and binding and Guyana remains committed to the judicial process. That route, he said, is based on the rule of law and as such ‘cannot be decided on any sideshow or any other engagement.’
The so-called ‘accord,’ as noted in the statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is an overt threat to the sovereignty and integrity of Guyana, and as such, Guyana cannot be used as an altar of sacrifice for the settlement of Venezuela’s internal political differences.
In the view of President Ali, the countries that arranged the meeting to resolve the internal political differences in Venezuela should understand that issues confronting the government and the political opposition are essentially political and internal and therefore have no bearing whatsoever on the border controversy. That matter is properly before the ICJ and any attempt to use the issue to gain internal political mileage is not only disingenuous, but also an affront to the cannons of international law.
It is in the above context that the President’s decision to bring to the attention of those who offered to ‘mediate’ on the controversial matter has to be seen. The President has indicated that he intends to brief CARICOM Heads, the Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the United Nations on the controversial ‘accord’ purportedly reached
The government and the political opposition in Venezuela are currently engaged in a bitter power struggle. This has resulted in a severe political and economic crisis. This has resulted in a mass political exodus of Venezuelans to several neighbouring countries, including Guyana.
Guyana has consistently articulated a stance of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and despite the claim on the country’s territory, the two countries have by and large, maintained good diplomatic and cultural relations over the several decades.
It is unfortunate that this issue has now become, as it were, a political football used by politicians on both sides of the political divide to create a smokescreen of some apparent commonality on the claim to Guyana’s territory which was already settled way back through the 1899 Arbitral Award which decisively brought an end to the territorial dispute in Guyana’s favour.
Despite the finality of the award, Venezuela continues to make false claims to Guyana’s territory and, only recently, illegally detained two Guyana-registered fishing vessels and their crews, a move that was condemned by the Secretary-General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
It would be recalled that Venezuela’s leader Nicolas Maduro had earlier issued a presidential decree establishing a new so-called ‘Atlantic facade” in which he reasserted his country’s claim to parts of Guyana’s maritime waters in the Essequibo region.
President Irfaan Ali and the PPP/C administration must be commended for exercising restraint in the face of several actions that could be considered provocative. It will be a mistake, however, to view such restraint as a lack of resolve to bring an end to the border controversy which, for too long, has been an impediment to Guyana in the realisation of its full economic potential.