Border controversy case: Aside from US$15M Govt seeking $788M more for ICJ

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Apart from US$15M out of the $18M it received from ExxonMobil in the form of a signing bonus going towards legal fees for the legal proceedings against neighbouring Venezuela at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Government is also seeking an additional $788M in supplementary provisions from the National Assembly to add to that.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Carl Greenidge

According to Financial Paper Number Two of 2018, the Government is requesting $488,000,000 to meet the estimated cost in 2018 of representing Guyana at the ICJ, including payment of legal fees. While $300 million was listed as voted provision, $788,049,000 in supplementary provision is now being sought.

In providing an explanation as to why this amount is being sought, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge disclosed on Thursday that the requested sum will cover the cost for retaining lawyers to do whatever it is that is needed to be done during the course of 2018 in terms of this border case.

“We don’t know exactly how much it would cost, because we don’t know how the court process will unfold. It depends in part on what the court requires. They may look at it and decide to ask us to do this or that…and we might have to go and get somebody else to supplement the information,” he explained.

Greenidge said Venezuela may also choose to appear or not appear, and that too could affect the budget. “So it’s a little difficult to say exactly what will be required; that is why it is an estimate. So we may find at the end of the year that it is less or more. You pay lawyers by time, so it’s very much dependent on them.”

The Foreign Affairs Minister had alluded to the fact that US$15M ( approximately three billion Guyana dollars) might not be enough as the case progresses. He said Cabinet has decided that, as the need arises each year, the money would be transferred from the special account at the Bank of Guyana to the Consolidated Fund to “meet the estimated expenditure” for the lawyers.

Meanwhile, the Government has disclosed that the team which represented Guyana in the matter against Suriname in 2007 has been retained. That team is headed by Paul Reichler, a partner in the Washington office of law firm Foley Hoag LLP. There is still no word on which other firm has been hired.

Minister Greenidge has, however, said Government may disclose their entire legal team in eight weeks’ time, depending on how soon the entire arrangement is finalised.

“When the entire arrangement is tied up, we will let you know…You got firms, and the individuals may not all be free all the time. At the moment, we have recruited three firms, and may likely recruit more, based on the need to do so. Some may be hired part time, as well to do research and so on,” he added.

Guyana’s application to the ICJ follows a decision by UN Secretary General António Guterres to choose the ICJ as the next means of resolving the controversy that arose as a result of the Venezuelan contention that the 1899 Arbitral Award in regard to the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela was null and void.

It was outlined that Venezuela had only changed its position formally in 1962 as the United Kingdom was making final preparations for the independence of British Guiana and had threatened not to recognize the new State, or its boundaries, unless the United Kingdom agreed to set aside the 1899 Award and cede to Venezuela all of the territory west of the Essequibo River, amounting to some two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.

Guyana’s Application, notes that while Venezuela has never produced any evidence to justify “its belated repudiation of the 1899 Award, it has used it as an excuse to occupy territory awarded to Guyana in 1899, to inhibit Guyana’s economic development and to violate Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights.” (Samuel Sukhnandan)

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