PM Phillips says Guyana remains committed to legal process to resolve border controversy
Opposition Leader reiterates full support for government; says Guyana’s land must be protected; calls for recapitalisation of the GDF, more public awareness
MAINTAINING Guyana’s ownership of the Essequibo territory, Prime Minister Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips said Guyana’s stance on the border controversy with Venezuela is non-negotiable.
The Guyanese leader joined several of his government and opposition colleagues in defending the country’s border at an extraordinary sitting of the National Assembly on Monday.
PM Phillips, who opened his speech in Spanish, asserted that Essequibo belongs to Guyana.
He further went on to say that Venezuela’s claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory is unequivocal, and with the Bolivarian Republic continuously issuing threats, the time for dialogue or action outside of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has long passed.
“The matter is before the International Court of Justice; time for negotiation is over. Mr. Speaker, there’ll be no need for any dialogue with Nicolás Maduro. There will be no meeting; not now, between Maduro and President Dr. Irfaan Ali [on this topic],” he affirmed.
Venezuela has continuously laid claim to Guyana’s Essequibo Region, despite the 1899 Arbitral Award, which has established a “full, perfect and final” settlement of the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela.
In its most recent attempt to thwart the Rule of Law, the Nicolás Maduro Government plans to put forward a referendum on Guyana’s Essequibo.
However, the Guyana Government has sought the intervention of the World Court. A hearing into this matter is set for next week, while an impending case on the border controversy itself is still ongoing in the Court.
“Our history is lined with the origins of our Indigenous Peoples who have inhabited our lands for generations, and the subsequent arrival of the Africans, Indians, Chinese, Portuguese, and Europeans as a result of the Atlantic Slave Trade. Mr. Speaker, our sovereignty over this territory means everything to our people, whose ancestors made Guyana their home. Our position is non-negotiable, and this is a fundamental right that all nations must respect,” Prime Minister Phillips said.
Other officials have since spoken out, saying that Venezuela’s claims and increased military activity at the border will have grave consequences on the country’s Indigenous population.
The claims, which PM Phillips has described as baseless, have seen the increased division of not only two nations that could build together but also their peoples.
“We’re witnessing decades of division among our people, resulting in social fragmentation stemming from contradictory narratives. This, in turn, has adverse effects on economic development and investments between our neighbouring nations; it is a conflict that incites geopolitical tension that can affect regional stability and international relations,” the Prime Minister said.
He maintained that both Venezuelans and Guyanese are collateral damage in the midst of the controversy.
Meanwhile, throwing his support behind the government, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton said: “Our ancestors; those who were here before Columbus; those who came from Europe, Africa, and India fought hard, in difficult circumstances to create a human landscape which allowed us, over more than 350 years, to make Guyana what it is today…It is our inheritance, and we will do everything to protect it.”
Despite their political differences, he said that both the government and the opposition have taken a united stance in rejecting Venezuela’s claims. Testimony of this was the successful passage of a Motion reaffirming Guyana’s position on the matter. The Motion was tabled in the National Assembly by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd.
“Politically, we have fought for years, but one reality we should be proud of is that throughout the history of our country, we have always been united on the Guyana- Venezuela territorial controversy,” Norton said.
While maintaining Guyana’s respect for international law, Norton said: “Venezuela always comes up with some scheme to try to get our territory,” so the government has to examine other avenues of safeguarding the country’s border.
He further called for a proper registration system for Venezuelan migrants who enter Guyana across the border, as well as increased awareness of the controversy.
“The territorial controversy must be in our schools, studied by our academics at the University, must be part of the discussions of the Trade Unions, NGOs, the Private Sector, and within every segment of our society, regardless of which Party is in power,” Norton said, noting that he does not foresee Venezuela moving away from its claims, even if the ICJ rules in favour of Guyana.
Norton also suggested that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) be recapitalised.