By Kurt Campbell
In complete rejection of Venezuela’s renewed aggressive stance against Guyana, the Chief of the armed forces and President of Guyana, Dr Irfaan Ali has vowed to counter the antagonism as he seeks to protect his country’s security, integrity and national sovereignty.
“Just as we do not take revenge in the fight against COVID-19, so do we not bow to threats to our national security,” said Dr. Ali during a speech to the nation on Saturday.
President Ali’s speech denied reports of intermittent naval attacks into Guyana’s waters by Venezuela’s navy over the past two weeks.
“We may be a small country, but we are proud people. We have no military capability, but we have a moral and legal right. We choose to fight without anyone, but we will resist threats from anyone. In doing so, we will seek to protect international law and the support of the international community, ”added the Chief Executive.
The President said he has no intention of engaging with Venezuela bilaterally unless he stops his aggressive behavior towards Guyana. He said Guyana remains open to good neighboring relations with Venezuela but will resist all threats to national security posed by that country and Nicholas Maduro’s government.
Dr. Ali whose government is not opposed to engaging with Venezuela on issues such as the growing number of Venezuelan migrants in Guyana and the COVID-19 pandemic, but those talks will not happen while Venezuela continues its aggressive stance in pursuit of territory sovereign Guyana. .
Dr. Ali that such discussions, while welcomed, especially if the United Nations (UN) wishes to play the role of good offices, will proceed after a clear demonstration by Venezuela that it will refrain from any acts of aggression, starting with the release of two detained Guyanese fishing boats and his crew for more than a week now.
Guyana continues to claim that the men were arrested and detained while fishing in waters well within its Unique Economic Zone (EEZ).
STAND YOUR LAND
Meanwhile, Border Advisor and former Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge is urging Guyanese to stand their ground. He said that no Guyanese, especially those living in the Essequibo region, should distance themselves from the threats posed by Venezuela.
Greenidge said that if Guyanese retreated, they would hand over Venezuela exactly what it wants; giving up the country’s land and marine resources.
“Venezuela would be happy if Guyanese decided, out of fear, that they would get up and leave Essequibo. Then they can tell the world that these people do not want this territory. We must avoid this, ”he added.
Appearing alongside President Irfaan and senior members of his government at State House on Saturday, Guyana’s Chief of Defense Staff (GDF), Brigadier Godfrey Bess, said Venezuelan naval vessels have been spotted in n form the Guyana Unique Economic Zone (EEZ).
According to Brigadier Bess, the sighting of a Venezuelan navy in Guyana waters began recently on January 14, 2021, a week after Maduro issued a Decree to establish a new maritime territory where he laid claims to Guyana’s resource-rich maritime space.
The Chief of Staff said the Venezuelan Navy was last seen in Guyana waters on January 27, 2021, about 25 nautical miles off the coast of Guyana. To counter these raids, Brigadier Bess Guyanese assured the GDF that it was ready to make its presence felt in the EEZ.
Along with Dr. Ali, Bess assured those operating in EEZ Guyana, whether it includes oil workers or fishermen, that the GDF will ensure that they are protected from any threat posed by Venezuela in the aftermath his claims that Essequibo Guyana and the related maritime space belong. to them.
Guyana has seen an increased Venezuelan military presence in the Atlantic offshore Essequibo following the unilateral termination of the maritime border up to the east bank of the Essequibo River.
GUYANA IS A NIGHT PEACE
Both countries continue to share embassies in both capital cities and have a diplomatic presence. The President said Guyana is a peaceful nation and will always choose a path of peace as it negotiates a final legal settlement to the border debate, calling on Venezuela to respect the recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that it has jurisdiction to hear the border case and bring the matter to a conclusion by judicial judgment.
“It should be noted that President Maduro issued this new Decree, even as the Court of International Justice (ICJ) pronounced that it had jurisdiction to hear and determine a case brought by Guyana to rebut Venezuela’s allegation for International Arbitration of 1899 which was fixed. our borders in full, perfect and final settlement.
“It is well known that Venezuela has rejected the jurisdiction of the ICJ. It is a matter of speculation whether the Decree, issued by the Venezuelan President, was a reaction to the most authoritative International Court decision, simply because it did not favor Venezuela, ”the President added.
During his address, President Ali revealed that he had received correspondence from the UN Secretary General, who reiterated that the ICJ was to be used as a means of resolving the dispute as agreed in the Geneva Agreement.
The President said his most important responsibility is to keep Guyanese safe.
“It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning. It’s the last thing on my mind at night. And my working day is consumed by it. But, I want to make no mistake about it: my Government is doing everything it can to vigorously defend the health of our people and the territorial integrity of our country. ”
Just over a week after Venezuela issued the decree and claimed the Essequibo, Guyana received distressing reports that a Venezuelan naval vessel had seized two Guyanese fishing boats and detained its 12-member crew.
Guyana began operations announcing a formal protest against the illegal act with growing support from the international community calling for the release and return of the ships and crew.
Guyana says it supports and awaits the outcome of the judicial process even as it calls on Venezuela to participate in the process it has so far rejected.