Recently, President Dr Ali and Prime Minister Brigadier Mark Phillips have been preoccupied with addressing the border controversy and briefing the opposition on the false and illegitimate claims by President Maduro of Venezuela. Yet they found the time to meet with a delegation from the New York State Assembly who are on a fact-finding mission to verify and or dispel the alleged assertions that the PPP/C government is racist and that it discriminates against Afro-Guyanese who are the second largest ethnic group in Guyana after Indo-Guyanese.
Based on several media reports, the meetings were very constructive and meaningful, and President Ali was able to convince the New York delegation of his “One Guyana” vision which includes everyone regardless of their origin, race, or party affiliation.
Regarding the border controversy, both countries have been involved in a long-running dispute over their borders. However, in April, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that it had jurisdiction over the issue and would set a date to hear the case and hopefully, settle it. The latest claims by the Maduro regime over Guyana’s territory were reactivated recently after the discovery of oil and gas near the maritime border. As a result, President Maduro has scheduled a referendum for December 3, 2023, for the citizens of Venezuela to vote on whether their Government should annex Essequibo which constitutes two-thirds of Guyana’s territory including the potentially oil-rich areas. Critics have described the vote as a foregone conclusion and as a way for the ruling Maduro party to measure its strength ahead of planned elections next year and to encourage the ICJ to give it full rights over the disputed border territory.
The former Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Prime Minister Brigadier Marks Phillips has made it clear that as far as the Government is concerned, Guyana’s 83,000 square miles belong to the people of Guyana and not Venezuela and that the border dispute was settled in the 1899 Arbitral Award—a decision accepted by the United Kingdom on behalf of its colony, British Guyana, and assented to by the United States on behalf of Venezuela.
According to PM Phillips, these are the facts, and Venezuela must stop its malicious and intimidating threats and abide by international law and allow the ICJ to settle the dispute peacefully. He continues to speak truth to power by stating that it has been the long-standing position of Latin American and the Caribbean countries, including Venezuela, that the Region must remain a zone of peace, therefore, any attempt by Venezuela to use force will threaten the peace and stability in the Region. (Speaking truth to power is a phrase coined by activist Baynard Rustin—the main organiser of the march in Washington, DC on August 28, 1963).
However, in a terse and powerful statement, President Ali has maintained that the controversy raised by Venezuela must be settled at the ICJ and that Guyana remains committed to peace and the Rule of Law. This was reiterated in a joint statement by the Government and the Opposition in which it was made clear that Essequibo belongs to Guyana and that no one should make the mistake and taking the nation for granted.
From the outset, both President Dr Ali and Opposition Leader Mr Aubrey Norton have insisted that Guyana’s sovereignty is paramount, and all Guyanese are completely united on the issue. Both have strongly condemned the flagrant violation of the Rule of Law by the Maduro regime and that no effort would be spared to resist Venezuela’s persistent exertions to undermine Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The leaders assured the nation of their firm and unfaltering commitment to the current judicial process that is being conducted under the aegis of the ICJ and are convinced that the high court would finally resolve the question raised by Venezuela over the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award. Since then, the governments of Venezuela have treated the 124-year-old Arbitral Award as the final settlement of the border between the two countries. And have consistently recognised, affirmed, and relied upon the 1899 Arbitral Award as a full, perfect, and final settlement of the boundary between the then British Guiana and Venezuela.
As if this was not enough, President Ali has courageously declared that Guyana will not yield a square inch of Essequibo to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The declaration was made during his address at the launch of the Essequibo Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s annual Agro and Trade Expo at the Anna Regina Secondary School ground in response to the latest actions by Venezuela in pursuit of its false and fraudulent claim to the Essequibo region.
He thanked the international community and every right-thinking country, and especially Caricom for its pointed statement that the referendum proposed by Venezuela has no validity, bearing, or standing in international law and declared its support of the International Court of Justice which has the jurisdiction to determine the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award which Venezuela questions.
Caricom also reaffirmed that international law strictly prohibits the Government of one State from unilaterally seizing, annexing, or incorporating the territory of another state. President Dr Ali and PM Phillips are confident that the ICJ will settle the border dispute peacefully and that Venezuela will accept the decision.
Dr Asquith Rose