Guyana remains committed to justice, peace, and international diplomacy amid border controversy – AG Nandlall

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, S.C., has reaffirmed Guyana’s commitment to justice, peace, and international diplomacy in addressing the longstanding border controversy with Venezuela.         

The Attorney General was at the time speaking at a panel discussion and public awareness session on the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy, at Queens College, Georgetown, on Thursday.

From left, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, S.C, Attorney at Law, Dr Kim Kyte-Thomas, and Member of Parliament, Khemraj Ramjattan

“Guyana stands on the side of the rule of law. We stand on the side of justice [and] we stand on the side of international norm. We stand on the side of international conventions and practices…global peace and intentional diplomacy,” Minister Nandlall told the students in attendance.

He highlighted the support Guyana is receiving from its global allies regarding the Essequibo including the United Nations, Commonwealth, CARICOM, and the Organisation of American States (OAS).

“Most countries on the South American continent and in Latin America are on our side. There must be a reason why. The reason is that we are on the righteous side,” the minister asserted.

He presented a detailed account of the historical facts surrounding the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela.

In 1962, Venezuela disputed the 1899 Arbitral Award that defined the land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela. After 1966, Venezuela extended its claim to the entire Essequibo region of Guyana.  

In March 2018, Guyana asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to affirm the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award in its controversy with Venezuela. Despite the Geneva Agreement and the ICJ’s selection as the settlement mechanism, Venezuela refused to participate, contesting the court’s jurisdiction.

Guyana submitted its jurisdictional argument to the ICJ in November 2018, and the court ruled in favour of its jurisdiction in December of the same year.

In June 2022, Venezuela filed a preliminary objection to Guyana’s claims, seeking to prevent the court from ruling on them. Guyana responded in July 2022, and oral pleadings were heard in November 2022.

On April 6, 2023, the ICJ issued a final and binding judgment, rejecting Venezuela’s preliminary objection and affirming its authority to adjudicate Guyana’s claims on the merits.

Now, Venezuela plans a controversial referendum on December 3, 2023, to gauge public support for its stance on Essequibo. Guyana has asked the ICJ for provisional measures to block Venezuela from proceeding with the referendum in its current format, arguing it violates the 1966 Geneva agreement. The ICJ is expected to rule on this soon.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General clarified that Guyana is not seeking legal action to impede a referendum in Venezuela.

“Every country has a right to hold a referendum, but no country has a right to hold a referendum that will result in actions that will cause interference of the territorial integrity of another country,” he explained.  

The minister underscored the importance of the awareness sessions, noting that all citizens must understand the principles and facts of the matter, its historical evolution, and how it will unfold in the near future.

Opposition Member of Parliament and Attorney at Law, Khemraj Ramjattan, and Attorney at Law, Dr. Kim Kyte-Thomas were also part of the panel, while Minister of Education, Priya Manickchand moderated the discourse.