…to bolster diplomatic efforts, public education campaign
Kaieteur News – President Irfaan Ali and Leader of the Opposition, Aubrey Norton on Tuesday met at the Office of the President to discuss the existential threat by Venezuela to Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and reaffirming each other’s commitment to defend this country’s interest.
The two leaders also rejected a proposed referendum by Venezuela that will see the annexation of the Essequibo, which they spuriously claimed belongs to them and called on the international community join in condemning the Bolivarian Republic’s threats to Guyana.
President Ali was accompanied by Prime Minister. Mark Phillips, Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo, Gail Teixeira, M.P., Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance and Hugh Hilton Todd, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Norton for his part was accompanied by Khemraj Ramrattan, MP, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Amanza Walton Desir, Geeta Chandon-Edmond, MP, Tabitha Sarabo-Halley and Ambassador Ronald Austin, CCH, Adviser.
According to a joint statement by Ali and Norton, in discussing the latest actions by the Government of Venezuela in pursuit of its spurious claim to the Essequibo territory of Guyana, President Ali and Opposition Leader, Norton from the outset, agreed that Guyana’s sovereignty is of paramount importance and is a matter on which the Guyanese people are all completely united. To this end, they condemned the flagrant violation of the rule of law by Venezuela and agreed that no effort should be spared to resist that country’s persistent endeavours to undermine Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
President Ali and the Leader of the Opposition also agreed that the protection of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state must be subserved by a vigorous and comprehensive public education programme and a proactive and robust diplomatic effort aimed at blunting Venezuelan propaganda and misinformation as they relate to the territorial controversy generally, and the Geneva Agreement in particular. “They reaffirmed the commitment to the current judicial process that is being conducted under the aegis of the International Court of Justice and are convinced that this would finally resolve the question raised by Venezuela over the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award,” the statement added.
According to the statement the leaders recalled that for more than six decades after the 1899 Arbitral Award was delivered, Venezuela treated the Award as a final settlement of the border between the two countries. To this end, it consistently recognised, affirmed and relied upon the 1899 Arbitral Award as “a full, perfect, and final settlement” of the boundary between British Guiana and Venezuela. In particular, between 1900 and 1905, Venezuela participated in a joint demarcation of the boundary, in strict adherence to the letter of the 1899 Arbitral Award, and emphatically refused to countenance even minor technical modifications of the boundary line described in the Award. Venezuela proceeded to formally ratify the demarcated boundary in its domestic law and thereafter published official maps, which depicted the boundary following the line described in the 1899 Award.
In July 1931, Venezuela concluded a boundary agreement with Brazil that expressly confirmed the tri-junction point of the boundaries of British Guiana, Venezuela and Brazil as described in the 1899 Award. For more than sixty years, Venezuela gave full effect to that Award, and never raised a concern as to its validity and binding legal effects. President Ali and Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton determined that the questions to be posed in the Referendum to be held by Venezuela on December 3, 2023, violated the sanctity of treaties. Moreover, they are in blatant disregard of the principles of international law. In particular, question three as part of the set of questions, speaks to the “historical position” of Venezuela “of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to resolve the territorial controversy over ‘Guayana Esequiba’; while question five seeks the approval of the Venezuelan people for the creation of a new Venezuelan State consisting of Guyana’s Essequibo Region, to include “the granting of citizenship and Venezuelan identity card in accordance with the Geneva Agreement and international law”. This is a deliberate misinterpretation of the Geneva Agreement and a clear violation of International Law.
They further underscored the fact that no Government or the people of one country has the right in international law, to seize, annex, or conquer the territory of another country. International law emphatically prohibits this. Both leaders acknowledged the support by the international community for the preservation of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and urged that Venezuela’s actions be closely monitored as they pose a serious threat to the peace and security of the hemisphere. President Ali and Opposition Leader, Aubrey Norton agreed to keep in close consultation on this matter of national importance.
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters following the meeting, Opposition Leader Norton, expressed deep concern over Venezuela’s recent actions and underscored the vital need for a cooperative approach between the government and the Opposition. Norton said, “We have been able to outline our own positions. We are unified in a number of issues, including rejecting this whole idea of a referendum that it is pernicious, dangerous, and aggressive. Hope it should not be go forward. It’s very aggressive by nature and militarizing issue that really should be for diplomatic resolution.”
He described the meeting with President Ali as a resounding success, and shared that a joint statement will be issued. Norton emphasized the need for heightened dialogue and public education. President Ali reportedly concurred, indicating a commitment to pursue these actions. The Opposition Leader explained that he had read Venezuela recent statement, underscoring that he believes the Spanish-speaking nation, “Is trying to shift this thing away from the ICG. we have to ensure it stays with the ICJ and our best option is with the ICJ…and what Venezuela is attempting to do is to make it appear as if we are the Government of Guyana all of us are rejecting dialogue. We are not.” For his part, Khemraj Ramjattan, expressed satisfaction with the meeting’s outcomes, viewing it as a significant step towards achieving unity between the government and the opposition.
Only on Monday the Guyana Government deplored the move by Venezuela to seek a referendum to annex the Essequibo as it continues to further its unlawful claims to the mineral-rich region of this country. Venezuela media reported on Monday that the country’s electoral commission will ask its citizens to answer five questions at a referendum billed for December 3, 2023 as part of the Bolivarian Republic’s claims to the Essequibo.
The five questions are:
- Do you agree to reject by all means in accordance with the law the line fraudulently imposed by the Paris Arbitration Award of 1899 that seeks to deprive us of our Guayana Esequiba?
- Do you support the 1966 Geneva Agreement as the only valid legal instrument to reach a practical and satisfactory solution for Venezuela and Guyana regarding the controversy over the territory of Guayana Esequiba?
- Do you agree with Venezuela’s historical position of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to resolve the territorial controversy over Guayana Esequiba?
- Do you agree to oppose by all means in accordance with the law Guyana’s claim to unilaterally dispose of a sea pending delimitation illegally and in violation of international law?
- Do you agree with the creation of the Guayana Esequiba state and the development of an accelerated plan for the comprehensive care of the current and future population of that territory that includes, among others, the granting of citizenship and Venezuelan identity card in accordance with the Geneva Agreement and international law, consequently incorporating said state on the map of Venezuelan territory?
Meanwhile, in a statement Monday night, the Government of Guyana said it has taken careful note of the issuance by the National Electoral Council of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela of five questions to be asked in the national referendum scheduled for December 3, 2023. The government said among other questions, all of which are intended to further Venezuela’s unlawful and unfounded claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s national territory, question five is the most pernicious. “It brazenly seeks the approval of the Venezuelan people of the creation of a new Venezuelan State consisting of Guyana’s Essequibo Region, which would be incorporated into the national territory of Venezuela, and the granting of Venezuelan citizenship to the population.”
This, the Guyana government said amounts to nothing less than the annexation of Guyana’s territory, in blatant violation of the most fundamental rules of the UN Charter, the OAS Charter and general international law. Such a seizure of Guyana’s territory would constitute the international crime of aggression. “The Government of Guyana categorically rejects any attempt to undermine the territorial integrity of the sovereign State of Guyana. The Government finds abhorrent that the Essequibo region which forms part of the territory of Guyana in accordance with the 1899 Arbitral Award that demarcated the boundaries of the States of Venezuela and then British Guiana, should be ‘created’ into a State within Venezuela,” the statement read. Further, the Government rejects the internationally unlawful act to put forward the ‘granting of citizenship and Venezuelan identity cards in accordance with the Geneva Agreement and international law’. “It is by way of the Geneva Agreement and the principles of international law that the question of the validity of the Arbitral Award of 1899 has been put before the International Court of Justice. That Court has ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear this case. Guyana has repeatedly encouraged Venezuela to participate in the case,” the Guyana Government said.
“The people of Guyana remain resolute against any threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their country. Neither the Government or the people of one country have the right in international law to seize, annex or take the territory of another country. International law emphatically prohibits this. The Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana calls the attention of the international community to the actions being carried out by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela which have the potential to incite violence and to threaten the peace and security of the State of Guyana and by extension the Caribbean region,” the statement concluded.