(Excerpts of President of the NDP, Honourable Dr. Godwin Friday’s presentation on his weekly radio program)
The border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana has been on the back burner for some time. More recently, because of the actions that were taken by the government of Venezuela, to unilaterally conduct a referendum that has no legal merit to claim two-thirds of Guyana, the Essequibo region that has been followed by a number of statements that have been made by the President of Venezuela which have created greater alarm amongst the people in Guyana.
I have listened to the President of Guyana, Irfaan Ali, in his pronouncement and you can see the grave concern that he expressed with respect to these developments. We cannot take them lightly because they are precedent so that in recent global politics and this is a grave development and you can see that the people of Guyana are preparing for the worst outcome but they are hoping for the best. As I have said last week, that there is a legitimate process for the resolution of the issue of the dispute between Venezuela and Guyana. We know from recent pronouncements that you may have heard on radio and stuff you have read in the media what the basic history of the dispute is.
Venezuela is asserting a claim to the Essequibo region of Guyana. Guyana’s position is that this matter had been settled in an arbitral award in 1899. Subsequently, when the matter had arisen a course of action as to how it would be dealt with was agreed upon. And, they are insisting that if Venezuela wish to still pursue its claim that they proceed by way of that agreed upon course of action, which is to say, that it goes to the International Court of Justice and that the matter will be litigated there and the parties would accept the decision of the Court. The Court itself has said that it has jurisdiction to deal with the matter. Guyana has said that it is willing to pursue the matter in the court and urges the government of Venezuela to do likewise. Venezuela on the other hand has rejected the jurisdiction of the court and the process of having the matter resolve within the court.
We are told that there will be a meeting this Thursday in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, at the initiative of Prime Minister Gonsalves, as the President pro tempore of CELAC. My understanding is that the meeting has the blessing of Caricom and that Brazil will also play a part in the proceedings.
My view and the view of the New Democratic Party is that any discussion that has the possibility, or the hope, the intention, the purpose of seeking to bring a peaceful resolution to this dispute is to be pursued. We are not starry eyed in thinking that this is an easy process or that the talks that have been initiated on Thursday here in Kingstown, that those talks have to have clear objectives as to what is to be achieved. We have heard that the President of Guyana has said that the borders is not a matter for discussion because the court has ruled that the parties should accept the status quo until the matter is resolved through the judicial process, through the International Court of Justice. That is the international position. That is what has the support of vast majority of countries in the world and certainly, the support of Caricom and that is the position of the New Democratic Party. We want to see a peaceful resolution to this dispute.
We know that Guyana has accepted the jurisdiction of the Court. We urge the government of Venezuela to accept that process and to pursue it in a way that is acceptable to the international community that will be acceptable to the people of both countries and has the potential to provide a settlement that has lasting value and will bring a lasting resolution to this conflict in a peaceful way. We have heard much talk about this area of the world being a zone of peace. And it is something that all of us, in the Caribbean and in Latin America would wish to see continue. But, it takes a lot of effort on the part of both parties, to be patient, and not to do anything that will escalate the situation as presently it has been done by Venezuela.
I am hoping that the discussions this week in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be a part of bringing at least the parties to the table. Guyana has already accepted the jurisdiction of the Court, but Venezuela as well needs to accept that this is the legitimate process by which the matter ought to be pursued. And, if they intend to pursue it and that the resolution of it by that process is one that will have the support of the international community and one that both parties will abide by that will have a lasting settlement of this long standing dispute.
Nobody should want to see this matter descend into violence and conflict. There are too many wars in the world right now. I certainly agree with the statement I heard from the President of Brazil which says there are too many wars in the world. We need to have a peaceful resolution of this conflict. There needs to be good faith on both sides.
We must do all we can to support the rule of international law and respect of Guyana’s territorial integrity. We cannot support the flouting of international law and legal processes nor condone the use of unilateral actions and threats to settle the dispute. Thursday’s meeting between the leaders must affirm the commitment to the peaceful resolution of the dispute and the maintenance our zone of peace.