“We will not bend to threats to our national security” – President Ali

President Dr Irfaan Ali
President Dr Irfaan Ali during his Address to the Nation today 

In light of recent “acts of aggression” by Venezuela, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Force, Dr Irfaan Ali, has reaffirmed that Guyana will not bend to threats by its neighbour and will continue to pursue a final settlement of the ongoing border controversy at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“We will not bend to threats to national security. We may be a small country but we are a proud people. We may not have military might but we have moral and legal right. We pick fights with no one but will resist threats from anyone,” the Head of State asserted during an Address to the Nation today.

President Ali also pointed to the widespread and continuing support from the international community since the January 7 decree issued by President Nicolás Maduro renewing claims to Guyana’s maritime territory off the Essequibo Coast, and more recently, the detainment of the two Guyanese fishing vessels and the 12-member crews.

According to the Guyanese Leader, “Not only do us Guyanese regard our cause as right and just but so too does the international community. We are not alone. We have the international community behind us.”

On this note, President Ali disclosed that on Friday evening, he received a letter from the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres, who reaffirmed that in January 2018, he chose the ICJ as means to be used as the solution for border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela, as he was empowered to do by the agreement signed in Geneva in 1966 by all parties.

The President further indicated that while the Secretary-General acknowledged that the World Court is proceeding to adjudicate the merits of the case, he also offered his ‘Good Offices’ role to address other important bilateral issues the two neighbouring governments may wish to engage on.

But according to President Ali, Guyana is “fully committed” to the ICJ process, which comes up for a case management hearing on February 15.

“We believe international law and independent international jurists of the highest caliber, offer the most credible and definitive way in which to put an end to the Venezuelan contention. Therefore, we will continue to pursue that course,” he contended.

In the same breath, however, President Ali explained that Guyana is not averse to engaging its Spanish-speaking neighbour on bilateral matters in which the two countries have bilateral interests. These include the increasing number of Venezuelans seeking refuge in Guyana as well as collaborating to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Guyanese Leader went onto insist that Guyana will only engage its neighbour if Venezuela desist from its ongoing acts of aggression.

“Such discussions are welcomed, especially if the UN Secretary-General wishes to play a ‘Good Officers’ role, [but] will have to be preceded by a clear demonstration by Venezuela that it will desist from any further acts of aggression against Guyana, starting with the release of the Guyanese fishermen and their vessels,” Ali posited.

The Head of State reaffirmed that Guyana is a peaceful nation and always chose the path of international law to resolve issues. He added the country will remain firmly on that path while pursuing justice for the country and its people.