It is embarrassing that persons entrusted to administer the affairs of Guyana have a flawed understanding of the concept of “non-interference in the internal affairs” of a state. This principle which is enshrined in international law does not preclude another state from commenting or pronouncing on the actions of a state with which it enjoys diplomatic relations.
Non-interference in the internal affairs of a state is a diplomatic principle. When two states establish diplomatic relations, they agree for each to pursue their respective interests so long as they do not impinge on each other’s sovereign rights.
The interests can be economic. A foreign state usually would enjoy the right to seek markets or investment opportunities and trade with the receiving state. This does not constitute interference in the internal affairs. The United States, Canada and the European Union have ties with Guyana which they have used to secure their economic interests.
Second, the foreign state may attempt to use its relations to protect its national security interests. A few years ago, the United States put forward a proposal which would allow these vessels to enter into another’s territorial waters in pursuit of narco-traffickers or terrorists so long as the pursuit commenced outside of the other country’s waters. Since the receiving states had to consent and pass legislation to allow this pursuit, it did not constitute interference in the country’s internal affairs.
In terms of the Caribbean, the principal US national security threats are drug trafficking, terrorism, money laundering and democracy. At one time, HIV emanating in the Region was seen as a major threat. The United States launched the President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as a means of reducing the spread of HIV in the Region out of fear that it can be exported to the US. It provides support to agencies involved in combatting narco-trafficking. This is not considered interference.
Third, some countries use diplomacy to achieve political goals. China, for example, is determined to ensure that countries with which it enjoys relations do not recognise Taiwan. The British try to encourage countries to support sovereign rights for the people of the Falklands/Malvinas. Cuba presses for the removal of the economic blockade. Almost all countries seek political support for appointments to major international organisations. For example, Guyana had to use its influence to gain the support it needed to be appointed to the Chair of the G77.
Fourth, some countries pursue social and humanitarian interests. Norway, for example, is a major oil polluter. It wants to improve its international image and that is why it is now a leading global advocate for the protection of the environment. The foreign policy of the Netherlands is based on support for humanitarian relief. Mexico and India have strong diaspora links as part of their foreign relations.
The United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union base their support to other countries on respect for human rights and democracy, including electoral democracy. These are referred to as the foundational principles of these states’ foreign policies.
When the present United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah-Ann Lynch, presented her credentials, she made clear her country’s interests in Guyana. She said, when she presented her credentials to President David Granger, “The United States and Guyana have a long-standing partnership that has remained strong in the face of change. Our shared values of democracy, human rights, and economic freedom keep this partnership rooted in mutual respect.”
Similarly, the European Union and Canada both stress democracy and human rights in their foreign relations. It therefore is a tad strange that government officials should be accusing foreign states of interference in the country’s internal affairs because of their positions on the 2020 elections.
The present position is no different from that which was adopted during the 2015 elections which was won by the APNU+AFC. The Coalition did not consider it then as interference when it was on the winning end. But it does so now that it is on the losing side.
Guyana voted with the LIMA group to not recognise the Maduro government, even though Venezuela has the best electoral machinery in the world. Guyana has not repudiated its position. Yet, it now screams about foreign interference in its internal affairs.
Every country, including Guyana, has a right to pursue its interests in its foreign policy. This is a reciprocal right which forms part of diplomatic relations. This does not constitute interference in the internal affairs of a state so long as sovereign rights are not violated.
The United States, Canada, the European Union and the British have their relations with Guyana on respect for democracy. As a condition of diplomatic relations, they have a right to pursue these interests just as Guyana enjoy the reciprocal rights to pursue its own in its relations with these countries.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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