The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken note of a column entitled “Guyana has been outfoxed by Venezuela”, (KN, November 7, 2017).
The Ministry is appalled that the author of an article which directly addresses a subject of critical national interest, has taken shelter under the nom de plume “Peeping Tom”, betraying immediately a purpose that is unsavoury.
The first assertion is that Guyana is responsible for a “war of words” and failure to engage Venezuela at the diplomatic level to resolve the controversy that has arisen from Venezuela’s rejection of the 1899 Award that established the land boundary with what was then British Guiana. This is an astonishing statement given that the two nations have engaged in the diplomatic procedures of the Geneva Agreement, including the UN Good Offices Process, since Guyana’s independence in 1966. In more than fifty years, there has not been any progress towards resolution. It flies in the face of reason why the author would blame this on Guyana’s vigorous defence of its sovereign rights rather than Venezuela’s baseless claim on two-thirds of our land territory. Guyana has good bilateral relations with Venezuela, but will never surrender even an inch of its territory. The trade in rice and energy is solely an economic matter and has nothing to do with the politics of this long-standing controversy. The author is fundamentally misinformed in his understanding of the situation.
The second assertion is that Guyana is somehow isolated in CARICOM and Latin America as a result of “a Venezuelan diplomatic counter offensive”. Not only is this untrue (Guyana enjoys considerable support in the international community), it is also irrelevant to the UN Good Offices Process which is currently the only forum where the controversy is being discussed. Again, the author seems to have no understanding of the nature of that process and is reckless in his speculation about what transpired at the recent meeting in New York.
The third assertion, that Guyana’s preference for a judicial settlement is unrealistic is also fundamentally misinformed. First, the author confuses the International Court of Justice (ICJ, which settles disputes between States) with the International Criminal Court (ICC, which prosecutes individuals for war crimes). Second, the author maintains that Venezuela’s approval is required for the controversy to be put before the ICJ. The author seems completely unaware that the UN Secretary-General decided in December 2016 that if there is no significant progress on resolution of the controversy by the end of 2017, he would refer the matter to the ICJ, based on the powers vested in him under the 1966 Geneva Agreement. The ICJ is the ultimate guarantor of international law and having waited for more than fifty years, it is the best hope for Guyana to once and for all establish the validity of the 1899 Award that established its land boundary. To suggest that Guyana should not protect its fundamental rights because it will have to pay legal fees is absurd, not least because the land and sea resources in question are worth billions of dollars.
Editorial collusion has denied the editor any claim to objectivity and fairness that a matter of such national interest demands at the present time. For its part, Guyana has confidence in the decision of the UN Secretary-General to give the Good Offices process one last chance before referring the matter to the ICJ, and will continue its vigorous efforts to protect Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereign rights under international law.
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
NOVEMBER 8, 2017