On February 16, 2018, a commentary by Vincentian political activist David Comissiong
titled ‘Shame on the three blind mice of CARICOM’ appeared on the St Lucia News Online website. It was reproduced in the Jamaica Observer newspaper the following day and other online portals at various times since.
Regrettably, Mr. Comissiong displays a gross and unfathomable ignorance of current
affairs and geopolitics in this ‘commentary’. He gleefully leaps from conclusion to conclusion, barely, if ever pausing to consider, particularly in the case of Guyana, the issue relating to the border controversy which would have certainly informed Guyana’s position.
At no point during his epistle did Mr. Comissiong even bother to acknowledge that this issue even exists. Surely it could not be that Mr. Comissiong, as a political activist, is unaware of this major regional political issue which has engaged the United Nations and has been recently referred to the International Court of Justice.
If it is that he is unaware, then that speaks to how flawed his tirade against the Heads of
For Mr. Comissiong’s benefit, following is a brief synopsis of the pertinent issues relating to the Guyana/Venezuela border issue which he may wish to inform himself of, with a view to producing more credible commentaries in the future.
In 1840, the British began taking steps to define the borders of its newly acquired territory. For this exercise, the services of the noted explorer and naturalist Robert Schomburgk was employed, thus facilitating the first diplomatic contact between the British and Venezuelans on this matter.
In 1850, there was a declaration of non-intention of occupation made by both parties. Due to internal problems within Venezuela, there were no further steps taken by either party on this matter, until the 1870s when Venezuela appealed to the United States for its assistance towards the settlement of the dispute. This resonated with America’s sensibilities towards the threats of European colonising activities towards the New World – the Americas.
With strong support from the United States, who threatened war with Britain, Venezuela demanded arbitration. After much negotiation, Venezuela and Great Britain agreed to a tribunal adjudication of the matter that was to be heard by five judges. This decision was formalised by the Treaty of Washington in 1897, between the contending parties, by which they agreed to place the contending claims to territories by both sides.
The Tribunal began its hearing from June to September of 1899. During that period, it held 55 sessions, in addition to listening to marathon presentations by legal minds from both contending parties. Finally, on October 4, this adjudicating body ruled in Britain’s favour, upholding its claims to lands west of the Essequibo River. But its claims to the Upper Cuyuni basin, and an area of land on the eastern bank near the mouth of the Orinoco, were denied.
Further, there was agreement to a mixed boundary that was tasked with carrying out a survey and demarcation, between 1901 and 1904, of the boundary, as stipulated by the Award.
Venezuela, in 1965, re-opened its claim to an already settled border, alleging that the award was null and void. It must be emphasised that the Geneva Agreement is not a document that hinted that there was still a dispute between the Parties, or had been intended to reopen a full and final settlement, or the final determination of British Guiana’s boundary with Venezuela. Neither was it a repudiation of the Settlement, or where Britain and Venezuela had agreed that the border should be revised. Venezuela has continuously spread the lie that the Award has been null and void. This in itself is a contradiction of the terms of the Agreement.
February 17, 2018 marked the 52nd Anniversary of the Geneva Agreement 1966 – the date of the last failed attempt from Caracas to prevent Guyana’s Independence. The Agreement was a Treaty between Venezuela and Britain – registered at the UN on May 05, 1966. Guyana became a Party on attaining Independence on 26 May 1966. In it, Venezuela settled for resolution of their yearning for two-thirds of the new State by the processes prescribed in the Agreement – the first being a Mixed Commission for four years, the last being a decision by the UN Secretary General of a definitive means chosen from article 33 of the UN Charter.
The Mixed Commission ended in 1970. For 47 years after, Venezuela harassed Guyana’s development, filibustered on settlement and steadily stepped up its militarism – territorially and at sea.
Venezuelan atrocities over the years have included, but are not limited to, the unjustified killing of a Guyanese citizen by Venezuelan armed forces in 2006; the apprehension of a vessel conducting seismic studies in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone by the Venezuelan navy; protests to and threats against companies involved in economic partnership with the Government of Guyana; and the mobilisation of military troops along the border with Guyana.
Despite the treaty obligations, juridical delimitation, acceptance of the Award, the fact that Venezuela acted in accordance with it for nearly 63 years and the existence of the
Good Offices Process, Venezuela has consistently embarked on a pattern of subversion, threats and intimidation in order to fulfill her territorial ambitions and/or force concession by Guyana.
In 2015, Guyana called on the Secretary General to take further and final steps under the Geneva Agreement. And he did; after requiring first one then a second year of ‘good offices’ and ‘mediation’, in which Venezuela engaged. When they produced no progress toward settlement, the UN Secretary General, on 30 January 2018 – acting under the powers Venezuela and Guyana had given him under the Geneva Agreement – chose the International Court of Justice as the “means that is now to be used for the solution of the controversy’.
Finally, Guyana has never been part of any American–backed conspiracy against its Western neighbour, as falsely claimed by Mr. Comissiong. Guyana’s sole disagreement with the Bolivarian Venezuelan Republic has been over the latter’s false claim to its territory which had been determined finally by way of the 1899 Arbitral Award.
I am sure that Mr. Comissiong is aware that due to a request by Guyana, the controversy has been referred to the International Court of Justice, by the Secretary General of the United Nations, for juridical determination. So his unwarranted attack on the Heads of State is entirely illogical, improper, and misplaced.
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