…as Guyanese protest Venezuela’s land claims
By Leonard Gildarie in New York
Guyana’s Head of State, David Granger, has called on the United Nations (UN) to launch a special system to protect vulnerable small states threatened by external forces.
Making his maiden address to the UN General Assembly yesterday, and amidst a peaceful but noisy street protest outside by Guyanese against Venezuela, the President, as expected used his speech and time to criticize the illegal claims by the neighbouring country.
The special protection system, explained the President afterwards to reporters, would ensure that UN move beyond just being a passive player into a body that practices preventative diplomacy.
The ongoing annual UN forum has been seen as an ideal place to raise awareness of the Venezuela border claims.
With meetings on the sidelines between world leaders including from The Netherlands, Sierra Leone, and the United Kingdom, Guyana has been ramping up the issue.
True to his promises made Sunday, the speech yesterday served as an opportunity for the Head of State to remind the UN of its commitments made for the protection of small states in 1994. That resolution paved the way for small states to call on relevant regional and international organizations to provide assistance when requested and requests the UN Secretary-General to continue to pay special attention to monitoring the security situation of small states.
The Venezuela border claim has been one of the biggest challenges for the new administration since it took office in May.
Following a significant discovery of oil earlier this year by US-owned ExxonMobil, that neighbouring country immediately moved to take control of two-thirds of Essequibo, the largest county, and parts of the maritime area, including where the oil well was drilled offshore Guyana.
Venezuela also recalled its ambassador and in recent weeks started to assemble its troops at the border of Guyana.
Trade between the two countries is also being threatened with an oil-for-rice deal not likely to continue after November, unless Venezuela does an about turn.
On Sunday evening, in an UN-brokered meeting chaired by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Venezuela agreed to return its ambassador for talks and to approve Cheryl Miles, the designated envoy from Guyana.
During his address to the world leaders yesterday, Granger reminded that the United Nations – established 70 years ago after the formal end to the Second World War – became the midwife of a new international order.
Since beginning in 1945 with a membership of 51 countries, the UN has quadrupled to 193 states, the majority of which are small.
“Venezuela’s expansionist ambitions cannot be allowed to unsettle the principle of inviolability of borders, undermine the tenets of international law and unravel borders which have been undisturbed for decades,” he said.
With Guyana recommitting to preserving the Caribbean as a zone of peace, Granger made it clear that it is headed to theInternational court on the matter.
“Guyana seeks a resolution of this controversy that is consistent with the Charter of the United Nations.”
Expressing confidence in the UN to identify solutions that will validate the “just, perfect and final” nature of the award, the Head of State noted that the Good Officer process has failed to work over the past 25 years.
“We feel that this process has now been exhausted. Guyana does not wish that this obnoxious territorial claim should obscure the prospects of peace and obstruct the possibility of growth for the next fifty years. We need a permanent solution in order to avoid the fate of perpetual peril and penury. Guyana seeks a juridical settlement to this controversy.”
Granger insisted that Guyana wants to bring an end to Venezuelan aggression also. “We want to develop our country, all of our country, in accordance with International law. Guyana calls upon the United Nations to give real meaning to Resolution A/RES/49/31 of May 9th 1994 by establishing a collective security system not merely to ‘‘monitor” but, more so, “maintain” the security of small states. This resolution is a “manifesto’ of small states security.”
He explained that for 50 years, Guyana- a small country- has been prevented from fully exploiting its rich natural resources.
“Venezuela has threatened and deterred investors and frustrated our economic development.
For 50 years our territorial integrity has been violated by Venezuela which has occupied a part of our territory, the most recent incident being on October 10, 2013 when it sent a naval corvette into our maritime zone and expelled a peaceful, petroleum exploration vessel which was conducting seismic surveys.”
He said that Guyana rejects the threats and claims by Venezuela which are in defiance of International law. “Guyana resists Venezuela’s acts of aggression in defiance of the Charter of the United Nations which prescribes the peaceful settlement of disputes and proscribes the use of armed force.”
As a matter of fact, Guyana’s border with Venezuela was settled 116 years ago. “The whole world, except the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, accepts our borders.”
World leaders were told that a tribunal issued an award on the 3rd of October, 1899, giving Venezuela 13,000 square kilometers of this country, an area bigger than Jamaica or Lebanon. “Venezuela was bound under International law to respect that award, which it did for the subsequent six decades.”
But Venezuela, at the onset of Guyana’s independence resorted to various stratagem to deprive Guyana of its territory.
“There has been a series of acts of aggression by the President of Venezuela against my country – from the time of President Raúl Leoni Otero’s Decree No. 1.152 of June 15, 1968 to the time of President Nicolás Maduro Moro’s decree of May 26th 2015.”
With Venezuela boasting a bigger population and army than Guyana, the threats over the years have retarded this country’s development.
“Venezuela’s expansionist ambitions cannot be allowed to unsettle the principle of inviolability of borders, undermine the tenets of international law and unravel borders which have been undisturbed for decades.”
Meanwhile, outside of the Manhattan offices of the UN, dozens of Guyanese gathered, singing The Tradewinds- “Not a blade of grass”.
According to Irving Washington, a spokesperson for the Guyana Unity Movement, Guyanese in the diaspora are naturally concerned about the recent aggression by Venezuela.
“We are doing what we have to do and intend to keep this up whenever the issue arises.
The protest was also organized by the Center for Guyana’s Progress and Anything Guyanese.
Charles Sugrim and Lawrence Houston are also two Guyanese who were part of the protest which was conducted with placards, loud chantings and behind metal barriers.
“The land belongs to all of Guyana. We will fight for it,” a vocal Sugrim said.
Also there was Eustace Harcourt, father of murdered activist Courtney Crum-Ewing. He said that it is time for Venezuela’s aggression to end. He also urged the new administration to bring the killers of his son to justice.
Crum-Ewing, who was a one-man protestor of the previous administration, was gunned down in Diamond, East Bank Demerara, while doing political work for the May 11 elections.
Charles “Chuck” Mohan, a Guyanese-born lecturer, believes that Maduro should keep his hands off Guyana.
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