PM Phillips urges
By Naomi Parris
IN the wake of Venezuela’s escalating claims to Guyana’s Essequibo territory, public education and awareness are pivotal in ensuring that the country’s sovereignty is safeguarded, Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips has said.
At a sensitisation event held at his Camp Street, Cummingsburg, Georgetown office on Monday, the former Guyana Defence Force (GDF) chief of staff, urged members of the public to educate themselves on the country’s history and the border controversy.
“Don’t always allow yourself to sit down and let somebody tell you about the border controversy, sometimes it’s good to go and do the reading yourself, because you have children to educate, your family; you have relatives, you have people in your neighbourhood. If you are a leader, they will ask you questions,” the Prime Minister said.
Recently, the Bolivarian Republic announced its plans to hold a referendum over Guyana’s territory on December 3, 2023. The Government of Guyana has since approached the ICJ for provisional measures to prevent Venezuela from proceeding with its planned referendum. This referendum seeks to garner support from the Venezuelan populace to claim two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.
In response, the Guyana Government has embarked on a vigorous awareness campaign which has seen many sections of the population uniting.
Guyanese are gearing up for a day of prayer and fasting on December 3 to coincide with Venezuela’s planned referendum. Religious leaders and groups will lead this spiritual initiative which will start with a symbolic human-chain formation, whereby citizens will join hands to exhibit the collective strength of the nation.
Meanwhile, both government and private sector agencies have been hosting sensitisation programmes.
“We have to ensure that every Guyanese…children in the schools, old folks who are shut in at homes, every Guyanese must be clear that Essequibo belongs to Guyana,” PM Phillips said.
Aside from the countrywide sensitisation, the Prime Minister noted that the government has also been engaging several regional and international partners.
“I had to be overseas to attend to two separate sessions, one is the Organisation of American States and where I read Guyana’s position and Guyana’s concern and this whole controversy and recently, I was in Brazil where we had the conference of ministers of defence for ministers of South American Nations.”
The genesis of the border controversy goes back to the 1899 Arbitral Award, a landmark decision that delineated the land boundary between British Guiana (now Guyana) and Venezuela.
Despite the historic arbitration, tensions have persisted, with Venezuela repeatedly challenging the validity of the award.
In 2018, Guyana took a decisive step by approaching the International Court of Justice (ICJ) seeking affirmation of the award’s legitimacy.
Venezuela, taking a defiant stance, initially claimed that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction, a contention flatly rejected by the World Court in a crucial ruling in December 2020. The door was thus opened for the ICJ to delve into the merits of the substantive case.
Recent developments have heightened the geopolitical situation, as Venezuela, through its National Electoral Council, unveiled plans for a “Consultative Referendum” on December 3.
Guyana contends that this move is a thinly veiled attempt by Venezuela to gather support for abandoning the ongoing ICJ proceedings, and unilaterally assert control over the Essequibo region.
Venezuela’s Vice President Delcy Rodriguez, has expressed her nation’s complete disregard for the ICJ’s authority in addressing the border controversy.
The substantive case which highlights the historical context and the 1899 Arbitral Award, remains before the World Court.