“Threat to Guyana’s sovereignty, territorial integrity is as grave now as it ever was”…President Granger tells CARICOM Heads

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 Statement by President David Granger at the Twenty-seventh Inter-Sessional of the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, Placencia, Belize, 16-17 February 2016.

Mr. Chairman,

I had the honour to address the Thirty- sixth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community in Barbados in July 2015. Much has happened since then. At that time, Caricom was astonished at the outrageous Decree – No. 1787 – that had been issued by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela extending its maritime zone into the maritime space of many CARICOM states.

So grotesque was the Decree that it was soon after rescinded. It was replaced by another decree – No. 1859 –  equally objectionable to Guyana.

I will reserve my remarks on this aspect of the matter for the next sub-item on the agenda –The Report of the CARICOM Expert Group on the Law of the Sea: Consolidated Study of the Implications of Venezuelan Presidential Decrees no. 1787 and 1.859.

The Caricom Summit was followed, not long afterwards, by theUnited Nations General Assembly in 2015. I had the opportunity there to present Venezuela’s aggression against Guyana and to call on UN Secretary-General to exercise his powers   to bring this Venezuelan aggression towards Guyana to an end by process of law. He is empowered to do so by the Geneva Agreement of 1966 – the Agreement among British Guiana, Britain and Venezuela which allowed Independence to go forward –Independence which Venezuela had tried to block.

The 50th anniversary of the signing of the Areement will be observedon 17th February 2016. The Agreement was aimed at bringing Venezuela’s territorial claims to an end.  Venezuela’s contention, as you know, is that the international Arbitral Award of 1899 that fixed Guyana’s boundaries with Venezuela is a ‘nullity’.

Throughout the past 50 years, Venezuela made no effort to prove its contention.

  • It chose, instead, a strategy of harassment.
  • It chose a course ofobstruction of Guyana’s economic development.
  • It chose a diplomatic posture of preventing Guyana from membership of the Organization of American States for 25 years.
  • It attempted subversion of our indigenous people.
  • It resorted to a strategy of naked naval threat by sending a corvette into our Exclusive Economic Zone in 2013.

Fifty years of this constant threat to our sovereignty and territorial integrity are too long for any state to sustain. It occupied our entire existence as an independent State.

Guyana seeks to end having to live under constant threat. We seek to allow the rule of international law to prevail.   Venezuela, however, reasserted its claim to more than half of Guyana by asserting – as its Foreign Minister did last week – that by the Geneva Agreement, Venezuela’s claim of nullity of the Arbitral Award had been acknowledged, if not accepted.

Venezuela might have surmised that, what remained was for its so-called ‘historical controversy’ to be resolved by diplomacy.  Guyana is convinced that, based on its experience over the past 50 years, this would mean only another 50 years of harassment. Venezuela seems prepared to pursue a programme of aggression under the cloak of peace to avoid a judicial settlement and submission to international law.

The UN Secretary General, in the wake of all that happened last year, has formulated Proposals for The Way Forward under the Geneva Agreement, ending, if necessary, in the International Court of Justice. Guyana has been cooperating with him.

Venezuela is not. It is, instead, using its monthly Presidency of the Security Council to portray itself as an advocate of peace and respect for the Charter.  Venezuela has issued, through its Foreign Ministry, two weeks ago, a document referred to as Ratification of Venezuelan rights over the Essequibo.

Guyana has taken note of these warnings. My Foreign Minister made a Statement in our National Assembly on 12thFebruary 2016 repudiating these assertions. I will circulate it for your attention.

The threat to Guyana’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and economic development is as grave now as it ever was. Our need for your solidarity is as great now as it ever was.

Thank you Mr. Chairman

CARICOM Heads of Government pose for a group photo
CARICOM Heads of Government pose for a group photo

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