Guyana’s National Assembly passes motion denouncing Venezuela’s illegal referendum on Essequibo


A special sitting of the National Assembly on Monday resulted in the Government and Opposition sides unanimously approving a motion 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 debate got underway at the National Assembly with Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd leading the list of 11 speakers from both sides of the House.

Todd started off the special sitting by noting that Venezuela was, and continues to be, on the wrong side of international law by challenging the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award through intimidation and brute force.

In fact, Todd noted that Venezuela has a history of disrespecting international law and seizing territory, like they did with the Aves Island off the coast of Dominica… even though that island was 350 miles away from Venezuela. Another island Venezuela took was the Patos island off Trinidad and Tobago’s coast.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hugh Todd

“The Essequibo region, Mr Speaker, is the only territory which Venezuela has had her eye set on, that she has not been able to take possession of. And she will not be able to take possession of our Essequibo,” Todd said, to thunderous applause.

“We are here this morning, as a nation united, to show the world that we are here, on the right side of history and the right side of international law… the history and the facts are overwhelming. But we have to give the people a full understanding of this longstanding controversy, which Guyana intends to see through to its logical conclusion at the ICJ.”


Minister Todd pointed out that Venezuela benefitted the most from the 1899 Arbitral award, from which they attained 751,640 kilometres. While Venezuela has claimed that its people “deserve” Guyana’s sovereign territory of Essequibo, Todd made it clear that Venezuela’s claim is born strictly from greed.

“That’s more than four times the size of Guyana. That’s what they got in the award. Guyana got 83,000 square miles. The facts are here. Venezuela was content with what they wanted. Because they felt that if they got the Orinoco, it was a victory,” Todd said.

“They got all they bargained for. Therefore, it is unbelievable and inconceivable that Venezuela would want to try to fool the rest of the world that it has a legitimate right to Essequibo. This will not stand. We live in a world where rules and laws must be followed by every nation state.”

Alliance For Change Leader Khemraj Ramjattan

Meanwhile, both Alliance For Change (AFC) Member of Parliament Khemraj Ramjattan and Deputy Speaker Dr Asha Kissoon of The New Movement (TNM) found common ground on a number of issues besides their support for the motion.

Int’l community

Both Ramjattan and Kissoon urged the international community not to be silent and to continue speaking up in the face of Venezuela’s aggression against Guyana. Additionally, they were both of the view that the Nicolas Maduro regime, instead of doing its job and giving the Venezuelan people a better life, are just using the referendum to distract the Venezuelans from the horrible conditions afflicting the country.

Deputy Speaker Dr Asha Kissoon

“I support the Government in its pursuit to ensure a peaceful and lawful resolution of the controversy before the ICJ. I support the Government’s urgent approach for protection done through the International Court of Justice. I support calls for the deepening of engagements among all national stakeholders.”

“I would like to express gratitude to our international partners. A friend in need is a friend indeed. And we’re in need. There is no time for silence. We require our international partners to speak out, to speak up and support Guyana as we stand on the side of the law,” Kissoon said.

In his presentation, Prime Minister Brigadier Retired Mark Phillips noted that this special sitting of the National Assembly sends a clear message of a unified country. He further emphasised to the Venezuelans that Guyana will not deviate from the legal pathway before the ICJ.

Prime Minister Mark Phillips

“We are sending a message of unity in the face of a clear and present danger from Nicolas Maduro’s Government… We must guard against simultaneously politicising this topic for political gains which are deemed selfish. If Guyanese are not mobilised around this issue, it becomes a lost cause,” the Prime Minister said.

“The time for negotiation is over. There will be no need for dialogue with Nicolas Maduro. There will be no meeting…between Maduro and President Dr Irfaan Ali. Essequibo is no bird island, no concessions through bilateral.

No to invasion, annexation, and other acts of aggression,” he added.

Further steps

For his part, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton expressed the Opposition’s full support for the Government’s efforts and in fact made calls for further steps to be taken, such as a halt to issuing documents to Venezuelans and more public education on the border controversy.
“Halt issuing documents to Venezuelans and put in place a proper register and a system to evaluate each applicant, screen and monitor their activities. It will be naïve of us to believe that Venezuela will not send its agents into Guyana,” Norton said.

Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton

“I think it is our task to rally all Guyanese in support of this country… I think there is need for more action. I think there is need for more public education. I think there is need for more involvement of our people. Our people will only be with us if we involve them. And so, I want to stress that.”

The motion was eventually unanimously passed, denouncing Venezuela’s motion as “provocative, unlawful, void, and of no international legal effect.” According to the motion, the referendum is in flagrant disregard for international law, since question five speaks to the annexation of the sovereign territory of another country, namely Essequibo, which was awarded to Guyana (then British Guiana) in the 1899 Arbitral Award… which Venezuela accepted and ratified at the time.

Several members of the of the diplomatic community, including the US Ambassador Nicole Theriot, British High Commissioner Jane Miller, Canadian High Commissioner Mark Berman among others were present in Parliament on Monday.