Guyana has set aside US$15M for legal fees to finance its legal case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ). That is a lot of money, amounting to some $3 billion.
However, it is not going to be sufficient to finance a case in front of the ICJ which only goes to show that Guyana did not even succeed in ensuring that it was able to obtain a satisfactory signing bonus to cover its full legal fees.
Three billion dollars is going to evaporate quickly if this matter ever goes in front of the ICJ. However, there are petro dollars expected – estimated at $200 million per day. It may sound like a lot but Guyana is spending about half of that amount right now to keep an unproductive bureaucracy afloat while complaining about the bail out of the sugar corporation.
Exxon has Guyana in such a state of confusion that the government is planning to hire lawyers without even first ascertaining whether the ICJ will hear our case. But that is nothing unusual when it comes to Guyana. We once built a glass factory without knowing where we were going to sell the glass that it was supposed to produce.
Burnham got taken in by some experts who told him that there was scientific justification for the project when in fact we probably did not have enough sand for a project of that scale.
Granger has to be careful he does not get outfoxed by charlatans who must be licking their fingers hoping to become part of the Guyana legal team so that they can share in this massive sum which has been set aside for legal fees.
The Guyana government has indicated that it will be assembling a legal team. But it has to be careful that it is not wooed by persons who have little or no experience is matters before the ICJ but who are hoping to impress the government by saying what the government wants to hear
The President has to be very careful. He has to look out for those legal opportunists who are going to spin arguments to convince him that Guyana has a case and that they should be part of the legal team.
He has to be careful with whom he is selecting because the least that he wants at this stage is for some half-schooled lawyer to advance some atrocious argument which will be thrown out by the court. He has to be wary of those who come bearing things he wishes to hear.
The first hurdle the President has to overcome is to determine whether the Court has jurisdiction to hear this case in the absence of consent by Venezuela. This column has given its position on the question of jurisdiction. It is an unassailable position which seems to have given some persons a panic attack.
The President should not begin to disburse that US$15M signing bonus just as yet. These are early days yet. The President should first clear the issue of jurisdiction before even assembling a new legal team.
He should approach one of the international legal firms which have appeared before the ICJ and ask them for an advisory opinion as to whether the consent of both parties to a contentious dispute is required to trigger the jurisdiction of the Court.
The President should not act prematurely and put together a legal team. He should seek legal advice as a first step from a firm which he will not hire for the case, so much so that they do not have an interest in giving him an opinion which is in their interest. There are international legal firms who have experts in international law who can give this opinion in one day.
It is only after this opinion has been received that the President should even contemplate assembling a legal team. It makes no sense assembling a legal team if, as expected, the consent of Venezuela is required.
Venezuela is not totally averse to going to the ICJ. It had, sometime last year, virtually resigned itself to this inevitability. But it is not going to give its consent in this election year and not in the face of an onslaught by imperialism. It is not going to place the future of its claim to the Essequibo in the hands of a Court which its views with suspicion.
When it comes to ICJ, Venezuela will not be interested at this stage. And that is all the more reason why the President should seek a legal opinion on the issue of jurisdiction of the Court.
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