Border Patrol Bill to be tabled soon – AG

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Attorney General & Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall

In light of Venezuela’s heightened aggression regarding Guyana’s territory of Essequibo, Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, has underscored the need, now more than ever, for local Border Patrol legislation to be in place.

Speaking during his weekly programme, Issues in the News, Nandlall explained that the Border Patrol Bill was drafted months ago, way before Venezuela announced its planned referendum which seeks to annex Guyana’s Essequibo region.

According to the AG, this bill is intended to create a framework for officers to be appointed and identify who will perform specific functions in relation to protecting, monitoring, guarding and patrolling the country’s borders.

“The Border Patrol Bill is to create a body of persons who will specifically be responsible for border patrol and border protection and border monitoring… This bill was drafted even before this referendum and before the heightened provocative actions of Venezuela. I believe the bill has now assumed power among the people importance. So, this is one of the bills that we will be taking to the National Assembly very shortly,” he stated.

This piece of legislation, when enacted, will give effect to the establishment of a Border Patrol Unit. The creation of such a unit was first mentioned by President Dr Irfaan Ali, during his inaugural address to the Parliament in February 2021.

With the aim of strengthening the country’s security, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces had indicated, “We’ll also be strengthening our ability to secure our borders with the establishment of a Border Patrol Unit.”

AG Nandlall explained during his programme on Tuesday evening that this unit would work in tandem with and be an addition to existing capabilities in both the Guyana Defence Force and the Guyana Police Force.

“It’s an additional mechanism to bolster our ability and capacity to protect our territorial integrity, in particular, in the areas of our vast borders. This is a bill, a law, that should have been, that should have been enacted a long time now,” he contended.

Given the porous nature of Guyana’s borders, the Legal Affairs Minister highlighted the difficulties to monitor and patrol these locations.

“Our borders are very, very long and very, very hard [and] difficult to monitor and to patrol. So, hopefully, the Border Patrol Bill will provide the necessary human resource and other things necessary to ensure that we have adequate eyes and ears on the borders of our country,” the Attorney General stated.

Only, last week, President Ali, in his message to commemorate the 58th anniversary of the GDF, reassured of Government’s support towards the armed forces as he pressed the need to vigorously defend the country against threats from neighbouring Venezuela.

“Guyana has always aspired to, and remains unwaveringly committed to, peace and the peaceful resolution of disputes. However, no one should misconstrue this commitment as a sign of weakness. We stand resolute in our determination to vigorously defend our country and its people, safeguarding our territorial integrity and sovereignty. In the face of extant challenges, we stand united, steadfast and unyielding in ensuring the safety and well-being of our nation and its citizens,” the President said.

The Head of State pointed out that the GDF remained central to the nation’s comprehensive defence strategy, which he noted was meticulously crafted to protect Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. “When summoned, you have never wavered in executing your duties with the utmost professionalism and efficiency. I want to assure you all of Guyana stands beside you,” the Commander-in-Chief pledged.

Last month, the Venezuelan National Electoral Council published a list of five questions that it plans to put before the Venezuelan people in a referendum set for December 3, 2023. The referendum will seek the Venezuelan people’s approval to, among other things, annex Essequibo and create a Venezuelan state. This particular question (#5) also seeks the citizens’ approval for Venezuela granting citizenship and identity cards to residents of Essequibo.

The Guyana Government has since sought the International Court of Justice (ICJ) intervention to prevent Venezuela from taking action through its planned referendum to annex Guyana’s Essequibo region.

Guyana approached the World Court in March 2018 seeking a final and binding judgement to reinforce that the 1899 Arbitral Award remains valid and binding on all parties as well as legal affirmation that Guyana’s Essequibo region, which contains much of the country’s natural resources, belongs to Guyana. The matter is still pending before the ICJ.

One of the questions from the referendum that Guyana is seeking an order against, is the very first one, which asks the Venezuelan people to reject the boundary between the two countries that was set in the 1899 Arbitral Award – following a process of arbitration.

Guyana is also seeking the court’s intervention against question three, which asks the Venezuelan people not to recognise the ICJ’s jurisdiction, even though the court had thrown out Venezuela’s previous attempt to get the court not to accept jurisdiction over the case.
Finally, the court’s intervention is being sought to prevent question five.

According to the ICJ, Guyana is also seeking an order from the court that “Venezuela shall not take any actions that are intended to prepare or allow the exercise of sovereignty or de facto control over any territory that was awarded to British Guiana in the 1899 Arbitral Award” and further that “Venezuela shall refrain from any action which might aggravate or extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve”.

The World Court has set Tuesday, November 14, 2023 for a special sitting to hear Guyana’s request regarding Venezuela’s planned referendum.

Meanwhile, the Guyana Government on Monday passed a motion in the National Assembly, denouncing Venezuela’s effort to threaten Guyana and by extension, the region’s peace and security, as well as Venezuela’s illegal referendum on annexing Essequibo. The motion was approved unanimously by the Government and Opposition sides during a special sitting.

Over the past few weeks, Guyana has been informing regional and international partners of Venezuela’s planned referendum, which has been criticised by the United States, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Organisation of American States (OAS) as well as several other nations in the region, including Brazil. There is a consensus that Venezuela’s referendum threatens the peace, security, and stability of the region.

Former Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana, Sadio Garavini di Turno, in an opinion piece published last week, bashed the Nicolás Maduro Government over the planned referendum, saying the exercise was not only harmful and useless but was a distraction from the ongoing socioeconomic crisis in the Spanish-speaking nation.

Turno, an advisor to the current Opposition in Venezuela, urged the Caracas Government to prepare itself to defend the country’s case before the ICJ.

The Guyana Government has already declared its commitment to resolving the longstanding border controversy with Venezuela through the legal process at the World Court.