Oct 23, 2015 News
-Pres. Granger tells Parliament
By Abena Rockcliffe
First it was the petroleum ship ‘Teknik Perdana,’ then Exxon Mobil, and now Venezuela is trying to scare away yet another foreign investor from Guyana in its spurious claims to this nation’s mineral-rich territory.
The target this time is the Canadian mining firm Guyana Goldfields Inc. which is located at Aurora, Cuyuni-Mazaruni.
President David Granger disclosed this ominous move while addressing Parliament yesterday.
Granger revealed that on October 13, Venezuela’s Ambassador to Ottawa sent a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Goldfields Inc. which threatens legal action against the firm.
The letter sent to the company’s CEO warned, among other things, that the opening of the gold mine is, “infringing on the territorial sovereignty of Venezuela and committing unlawful actions which could incur legal consequences. As such, you are hereby fully given notice of the respective legal actions that could herein occur.”
Granger told the House that Ottawa’s letter reflects the approach adopted by the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frias during his state visit to Guyana in February 2004.
Chavez had told the press that his administration would have no objection to everyday infrastructure works such as roads, water and electricity that directly enhance the lives of residents. But he said that strategically sensitive projects – including major offshore oil exploration ventures, mineral exploration or the involvement of foreign governments – were another matter. The late Venezuelan leader wanted them to be discussed within the framework of the High-Level Bilateral Commission.
President Granger said that the ‘Chávez doctrine,’ in short, meant that Venezuela demanded a role in determining the developmental destiny of Guyana’s Essequibo.
The Guyanese leader cited President Chávez’s opposition to the proposed satellite project in the Barima-Waini Region in 2000 as another impudent example of that ‘doctrine’.
Granger noted that Chávez, at that time, intervened to undermine the agreement between the Government of Guyana and Beal Aerospace Technologies Inc., which aimed at establishing a satellite launch station in the Barima-Waini Region.
“Is it that Venezuelan leaders derive satisfaction from the prolongation of this controversy?” President Granger asked.
He said that through unsubtle threats and undiplomatic coercion, Venezuela has also sought to establish itself as the arbiter of Guyana’s development of the entire Essequibo that it still refers to as its zona en reclamación.
President Granger passionately told the House of the effects of Venezuela’s continued and maintained aggression.
“Venezuela’s claims are not only illegal. They are injurious to the economic development of Guyana. Venezuela, therefore, must desist from hindering our economic development in an obtrusive and obstructive manner that is tantamount to interference in our internal affairs. It must desist from threatening investors who have a legitimate right to pursue their activities in our territory.”
He lamented that Venezuela, for nearly fifty years, exerted various forms of pressure on Guyana, hampering its development, in spite of the existence of the Geneva Agreement.
“That Agreement, it should be understood, did not change the status quo ante in relation to Guyana’s territory.”
Granger noted that the Geneva Agreement, in accordance with Article Four, is the correct instrument for referring the matter to the UN Secretary General in the present situation. He told the House that that Agreement states clearly: “No acts or activities taking place while this Agreement is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in the territories of Venezuela or British Guiana…No new claim or enlargement of an existing claim to territorial sovereignty in those territories shall be asserted while this Agreement is in force…”
President Granger said that Venezuela has nevertheless persisted in breaching the Agreement by asserting new claims, promulgating new decrees laying claim to vast expanses of Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone and dissuading foreign investors from developing Guyana’s territory.
The President said that Venezuela’s aim has been to obstruct Guyana’s development in spite of the so-called bilateral dialogue.
Guyana Goldfields Inc. is not Venezuela’s first targeted investor. The country has a history of such actions.
President Granger yesterday recalled that Foreign Ministers of both countries engaged in dialogue in the wake of the incident of October 10, 2013 in which the Venezuelan naval corvette – the Yekuana – expelled the ‘Teknik Perdana,’ a petroleum exploration vessel, from Guyana’s EEZ. The vessel, however, never returned to continue its work.
“The investors as well as others were scared into inactivity by the Venezuelan aggressive naval action,” Granger said.
Venezuela had also sent the US oil company, Exxon Mobil a letter over its exploration activities in an area that is well within Guyana’s territory.
The Head of State said that Venezuela’s claim that Guyana is an aggressor defies logic and plain common sense. He questioned, “Who is the aggressor? Who owns the Corvette?”
Granger said that Venezuela, apart from sending its navy to expel vessels from Guyana’s waters, also promulgated decrees purporting to annex Guyana’s maritime spaces; augmented its military manpower and exhibited offensive weapons and materiel to unprecedented levels; conducted provocative manoeuvres on Guyana’s borders; recalled its ambassador to Georgetown and suspended the process of acceptance of Guyana’s Ambassador-designate to that country.
“Guyana reacted to these provocations with dignity and firmness and on the basis of compliance with international law. It has always been respectful to the government and people of neighbouring states, confident in the correctness of its policies and in the justice of its cause. Guyana has no need to resort to force to advance its rights,” the President concluded.
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