REPUDIATION OF VENEZUELAN ‘ESSEQUIBO’ STATEMENT
On June 10, 2015, I made a statement in this House on our relations with Venezuela. In that statement I asserted our sovereignty as well as the threats to it and to our territorial integrity posed by Venezuela. I want to bring this House up to date on the most recent and crucially important developments.
On February 4, 2016 the Venezuelan Foreign Minister made a statement at the United Nations Headquarters in New York which contained several falsehoods and innuendoes as these relate to the territory of Guyana.
The Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana repudiates in its entirety the Statement issued by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. The Statement to which I refer is titled “Venezuela ratifies its rights over the Essequibo at the UN”, and will be circulated to the Honourable Members of the House.
That statement is yet another example of Venezuela’s time-worn belief that falsehoods repeated often enough may eventually lose their basic falsity. They do not.
Venezuela has no ‘rights over the Essequibo’.
Guyana’s rights over the Essequibo were settled by the Award of 1899 of the international Tribunal of Arbitration established under the Treaty of Washington of 1897. The Government of Venezuela undertook that award to be “a full, perfect and final settlement of all the questions referred to the Arbitrators”. And may I remind you, Venezuela did accept the decision. It did so jointly with the United Kingdom. Together they demarcated the boundary on the ground and drawing up a definitive map depicting the boundary between British Guiana and Venezuela identifying the Essequibo as being within British Guiana – in accordance with the 1899 Arbitral Award.
But there were always in Venezuela elements who wanted more, and for whom the birth of an independent Guyana seemed to threaten their greed and posed a threat to their imperialist crusade, so they tried to prevent it, contending with Britain that the Arbitral
Award of 1899 was “null and void”. Britain resisted them; their final rejection being the
Geneva Agreement of 1966 which acknowledged that Guyana would be free, and ensured that Venezuela could not pursue its “nullity” contention against the new state save in specified ways starting with a Mixed Commission and empowering the United Nations Secretary General to bring the contention to finality by judicial settlement, consonant with the Charter of the United Nations.
From the outset, Venezuela delayed pursuing their nullity contention; pursuing instead a policy of harassment of the new state, impeding its development by threatening investors. It kept Guyana out of the OAS for 25 years. Contemptuous of international law, it has issued decrees asserting maritime claims progressively more and more outrageous. And it remains one of the few countries of the world to have excluded itself from the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
And now in the statement to which I have referred, Venezuela seeks to move away from its “nullity” contention and to imply that the Geneva Agreement is about a ” historical position” and a “territorial controversy”. Further, that statement seeks to embrace the Agreement, even as it attempts to rewrite it. Guyana totally rejects these backhanded attempts to despoil Guyana of her rights. Guyana accepts the Geneva Agreement for what it is. It is not surprised that Venezuela on the other hand accepts that agreement as it would wish it to be.
When on 4th April 1966 the UN Secretary-General (then, H.E. U Thant) acknowledged receipt of the Geneva Agreement, he responded:
I have made note of the obligations that eventually can fall on the Secretary General of the United Nations by virtue of Paragraph 2 of Article IV of the Agreement and it pleases me to inform you that the functions are of such a nature that they can be appropriately carried out by the Secretary General of the United Nations.
Last year, Guyana’s President, H.E. David Granger, called on the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, to have Venezuela’s contention that the Arbitral
Award of 1899 is null and void and settled with finality by judicial process. By the Geneva Agreement both Guyana and Venezuela have empowered him to do so.
Venezuela’s behavior towards Guyana is a festering wound to peace and development in our region and an affront to the rule of law in the world. It must be healed by the process of law.
As Honourable Members are aware, the UN Secretary General has had discussions with both Guyana and Venezuela and has made proposals for “The Way Forward”. Guyana has been cooperating with him, and will continue to do so. Venezuela, however, seems prepared to derail the process. In this 50th anniversary of the Geneva Agreement which was signed on February 17, 1966, Venezuela should be seeking to fulfill the objectives of that Agreement and not frustrate them under a cloak of righteousness. Guyana will not allow the deceptions being peddled by Venezuela to persist.
The people of Venezuela are our sisters and brothers and Guyana has always held out the hand of friendship to them, and, continues to do so. But there are forces in Venezuela who made it their life’s mission, abusing in the process, the hallowed memory of Bolivar, to hold Guyana hostage to their crusade of greed.
Guyana is a child of decolonization. Its ancestry lies in the Charter of the United Nations
– its purposes and principles. Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are its international heritage. We will remain faithful to the demands of both; and we look to the international community to stand with us in Venezuela’s assaults upon them.
It is my hope that the National Assembly will lend its full support to my Statement as we continue in our collective endeavor to defend Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Statement will be brought to the attention of the Secretary General of the United Nations, the members of the Security Council and the wider membership of the United Nations.
I thank you.