Border controversy: Pres. Ali urges Guyanese to be cautious against “uneasiness”, “fear mongering”

President Dr Irfaan Ali

President Dr Irfaan Ali today called on Guyanese to be cautious about the information being circulated especially on social media as tension continues to rise over the ongoing border controversy with Venezuela.

“I’ve seen a number of social media posts and a level of excitement generated, leading to some level of unease within the society in relation to the Venezuelan controversy of our borders. I want to assure members of the public and to ask members of the public to rely only on official releases from the Government of Guyana to rely only on official releases from the Guyana Defence Force and official releases from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Exciting ourselves through sensation sensational posting, some of it concocted to generate excitement helped to create an environment of uneasiness.”

“There is absolutely no reason to move from anywhere. There’s absolutely no reason; absolutely no reason. That is the type of fear mongering that people are pushing on social media, but there’s absolutely no reason and the Guyana Defence Force, they are working very steadily and as I said before, I’m confident in the their ability,” the Head of State said at a press conference earlier today.

In order to ensure that citizens are reliably informed about the developments regarding the country’s border, President Ali noted that both the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force are on the ground especially in communities along the borders to engage residents and assure them of their presence.

“I believe strongly that there is no fear that should to be driven in the Guyanese people or in your psyche at this moment… So I would plead with members of the public to rely on the official channels of communication. We have had many instances of doctored videos video from 15 years ago, videos from some other part of Venezuela been circulated claiming to be occurring,” he posited.

Notwithstanding this, the Guyanese Leader announced that government will soon be undertaking a series of efforts to sensitize and educate the population about this matter.

“I’ll be engaging members of the media very soon on a strategy of educating our population, on a strategy of public awareness… [Even] the intensity of the awareness strategy and the education strategy, that also can be easily misinterpreted or misread. So we have a lot of plans in the upcoming weeks that will bring awareness to our population about the controversy, educating the people… For example, we have a series of activities planned for 3rd December. That includes sending a strong national unified message from Guyana to those participating in the referendum,” Ali stated.

On September 21, 2023, Venezuela’s National Assembly passed a resolution calling for a referendum regarding Venezuela’s unsubstantiated claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory in the Essequibo. Subsequently, the Venezuelan National Electoral Council last month published a list of five questions that it plans to put before the Venezuelan people. The referendum will seek the Venezuelan people’s approval to, among other things, annex Guyana’s territory in the Essequibo and create a Venezuelan state. This particular question (#5) also seeks the citizens’ approval for Venezuela to grant citizenship and identity cards to residents of Essequibo.

In light of Caracas’ planned referendum, Guyana has asked the ICJ to impose provisional measures to prevent Venezuela from posing certain questions to its population. Guyana’s legal team argued before the World Court that the country is not attempting to halt Venezuela’s referendum but rather, seeking provisional measures that will prevent its Essequibo region from being annexed by any means.

After hearing from the two countries on Tuesday and Wednesday, the ICJ is expected to hand down a ruling soon.

In March 2018, Guyana moved the World Court, seeking 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 binding, and that the county of Essequibo belongs to Guyana, and not Venezuela, as is being argued by the Spanish-speaking nation.