GDF reaffirms posture to defend Guyana’s territorial integrity

Map of Guyana

Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Godfrey Bess on Wednesday reaffirmed the organisation’s posture to defending the country’s territorial integrity, in light of Venezuela’s continued illegitimate claims to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in Essequibo and a portion of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The border controversy is currently being heard by the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“We continue to keenly monitor the judicial process in the International Court aimed at bringing closure to our long standing border dispute with Venezuela,” the Army Boss noted during the opening of the GDF’s Annual Officers’ Conference 2023.

“While the Guyana Government is committed to peaceful resolution, the GDF stands resolute in the defence of our territorial integrity,” Bess declared.

Venezuela has been seeking to block Guyana from having its substantive application before the ICJ heard, on spurious grounds that include its claims that the United Kingdom should have been made a party to the case instead of Guyana.

Venezuela has also claimed that the 1899 arbitral award is void due to what it claims was fraud by the UK at the time. The ICJ subsequently revealed in a statement that the date for the court to rule on the preliminary objections, will be announced later.

Guyana’s legal team is headed by Co-Agent and Counsel, Sir Shridath Ramphal, and includes member of the Bars of the United States Supreme Court and the District of Columbia, Paul S Reichler; and Professor Emeritus of the University Paris Nanterre, former Chairman of the International Law Commission and member of the Institut de Droit International, Alain Pellet.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, in January 2018, decided that the case should be settled by the ICJ after exercising the powers vested in him to decide how the controversy should be settled by the 1966 Geneva Agreement between Guyana, Venezuela, and the United Kingdom.

He resorted to judicial settlement after the good offices process between Guyana and Venezuela failed. Within the framework of the 1966 Geneva Agreement between the two countries, the Secretary General conducted good offices from 1990 to 2017 to find a solution to the border controversy.

The Spanish-speaking nation is laying claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in Essequibo and a portion of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in which more than nine billion barrels of oil have been discovered over the past six years.

Guyana, among other things, is asking the ICJ to adjudge and declare that the 1899 Award is valid and binding upon Guyana and Venezuela and that Venezuela is internationally responsible for violations of Guyana’s sovereignty and sovereign rights, and for all injuries suffered by Guyana as a consequence.

Manual on Borders 

Meanwhile, President Dr Irfaan Ali noted that it is the responsibility of the GDF to be equipped with the skillset and knowledge to train all other men and women in uniform positioned along the country’s borders, on matters concerning the nation’s territorial boundaries.

In this regard, he challenged the GDF to produce a manual on the country’s borders and to retrain and retool officers stationed to protect the borders.

He contended that soldiers posted in these strategic locations must be knowledgeable and capable of teaching and conducting lectures on matters concerning the country’s borders.

These educational sessions, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces envisions, can be conducted with schools and private sectors within the respective districts.

This manual, President Ali posited, must also be able to train others.