Stakeholders briefed on Guyana,Venezuela border issue

The Government of Guyana on Monday held an engagement to brief stakeholders on the recent decree issued by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claiming sovereignty over Guyana’s territory.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Hon. Gail Teixeira said the aim was to ensure all stakeholders are informed of the recent developments.  The engagement, which was held at Ramphal House, included representatives from religious organisations, political parties, the Private Sector Commission, Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association and the American Chamber of Commerce.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Hon. Gail Teixeira

Minister Teixeira said: “One of the reasons for the stakeholders meeting is that you will be able to go back and brief your members because this is an issue, I think that we have to stand together as a people. We have to stand as one, put aside all the other issues that we have differences that we don’t like each other about or we don’t agree on, that this one issue that require us as a people to stand together.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Hon. Hugh Todd said once Venezuela’s decree is gazetted, it gives relevance to that country’s position and would be seen as a threat to Guyana’s sovereignty. As a result, the Guyana Government must be proactive by having these discussions.

“And that is to pre-empt Maduro’s actions. So, we are taking it seriously and we are seeing this as a threat.”

Minister Todd added that we have seen Venezuela’s actions over the decades which necessitate moving to bring finality to the issue.

The Government is also in the process of engaging international organisations including CARICOM, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organization of American States (OAS), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Hon. Hugh Todd

“We are going to give them all of the submissions that we have coming out of Venezuela. We are still awaiting the decree, but we are bringing them up to speed with the events that occurred in the National Assembly. We are going to give them our position and we are going to reiterate to them that this is not a matter that we are taking lightly given the context, and that we are continuing to rely on their support given the support that we are getting from them so far,’ Minister Todd said.

Earlier Monday, Members of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee were also briefed on the matter. The Committee unanimously condemned any law by Venezuela making unilateral claims to Guyana’s territory. Minister Teixeira described the move as a ‘healthy development’.

A section of the stakeholders during the engagement held at Ramphal House

The border case between Guyana and Venezuela arose after the latter contended that the Arbitral Award of 1899 was null and void. The 1899 Award settled the boundary between the then British Guiana and Venezuela, which the latter recognised until 1962.

The controversy is currently before the ICJ where Guyana is seeking a final judgement to uphold the 1899 Arbitral Award. The ICJ on December 18 ruled it had jurisdiction to hear the case and rule upon the validity of the Arbitral Award and its legal consequence on both States. Venezuela has since rejected the decision of the ICJ.

The stakeholders consultation held at Ramphal House

On January 7, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro issued a decree claiming sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights in the waters and seabed adjacent to Guyana’s coast, west of the Essequibo River.

President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali has since condemned that decree issued by the Venezuelan President as a “legal nullity” which will not be recognised by any state. The President noted that it is a fundamental international principle that the land dominates the sea.  Guyana therefore has sovereignty over the area being claimed by Venezuela.