Guyana’s president, Irfaan Ali, addresses Venezuela’s aggressive behavior
Co-operative Republic of Guyana and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on Venezuela’s aggressive stance
Kaieteur News – Guyanese Fellow and Guyana wise men across the Globe.
Thank you for joining this special event from Guyana and many parts of the world.
I wanted to talk to you about two troubling issues that are plaguing our nation now.
The first is a renewed aggressive stance by Venezuela towards our country and the other is the robberies our people suffer from the Coronavirus, COVID-19.
I wanted to give you a chance to ask myself, ministers and officials questions about these two problems.
My friends, these are wonderful times for our country.
As we stand at the threshold of a remarkable economic and social development that marks a better life for all, we face a historic battle with an invisible but vicious enemy – COVID-19.
The pandemic has already taken far too many lives of our people.
One would have been bad enough; but the sudden and unexpected loss of 175 lives has thrown a pang of grief over our nation.
With 7,528 people currently infected, we strive to contain the virus, prevent its spread, and protect everyone in our society.
In the midst of this public health crisis, our nation is also facing renewed aggression from Venezuela, even as we seek peaceful and legal means to bring its disregard to the long-standing definition from our borders end.
As President of our beloved country, my most important responsibility is to keep the Guyanese people 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 as we do not take revenge in the fight against COVID-19, so we do not bow to threats to our national security.
We may be a small country, but we are proud people.
We have no military capability, but we have moral and legal rights.
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.
Let me now contact you with specific developments in relation to Venezuela that have taken place over the past three weeks.
On January 7, Venezuela’s President, Mr Nicolas Maduro, issued a decree before his country’s National Assembly.
In that Decree, Mr Maduro claimed to establish a new maritime territory in Venezuela called “Territory for the development of the Atlantic facade.”
He claimed, in the case of Venezuela, “exclusive sovereignty and sovereign rights in the waters and seabed off the coast of Guyana, west of the Essequibo River.”
Our response to this was swift.
We advised our sister states in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the international community, including the American Provinces Organization – the OAS, the Commonwealth and the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States.
Support for Guyana was immediate.
CARICOM Heads of Government on January 12 publicly denied “any acts of aggression by Venezuela against Guyana.”
CARICOM leaders reiterated their “firm and unwavering support for the maintenance of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Other nations, including the United States of America and Canada, expressed their concern about this further threat to Guyana.
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 in refuting Venezuela’s allegation for International Arbitration of 1899 and which was fixed to us in a “full, perfect and final settlement.”
Venezuela is known to have rejected the jurisdiction of the ICJ.
It is a matter of speculation as to whether the Decree, issued by the Venezuelan President, was a response to the most authoritative International Court decision, simply because it did not favor Venezuela.
Be that as it may, on January 21, we received distressing reports that a Venezuelan naval ship had seized two Guyanese civil fishing boats – Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf – operating off the coast of Waini Point within Guyana’s Unique Economic Zone.
This invasion by the Venezuelan armed forces into Guyana’s Unique Economic Zone (EEZ) and its arrest and detention of Guyanese fishing boat crews is a clear violation of international law and Guyana’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its maritime spaces.
The crews and fishing vessels are still detained by the Venezuelan army in Port Guiria in Venezuela, despite Guyana’s formal protest to Venezuelan authorities through diplomatic channels.
My Government also informed the international community about this latest violation of international law by Venezuela and its illegal and arbitrary arrest and detention of Guyanese citizens in Guyana waters.
Guyana has registered to the Venezuela Government its protest, in the strongest possible terms, in this illegal and aggressive act against the State and the people of Guyana and has demanded the release of both Guyanese ships and their crews and their return immediately.
On January 27, CARICOM’s Heads of Government again publicly called on Venezuela to “refrain from acts of aggression that will seriously undermine peace and security not only Guyana and Venezuela but the entire Caribbean region.”
Furthermore, CARICOM leaders called for “immediate release of crew members and ships.”
On the same day, the American Provincial Organization (OAS) condemned the “illegal detention” of the two registered Guyanese fishing vessels and their crew.
The OAS insisted on prompt and safe release of the crew and their boats and reiterated “its support for the rules and processes set out by international law regarding ongoing territorial conflicts.”
The OAS emphasized that resolving the issue between Venezuela and Guyana “is an issue of international jurisdiction, and cannot be settled by unilateral action.”
The 33-country Foundation was clear that “any attempt to decriminalize this international legal process, such as the decree issued by the Maduro regime, is contrary to international law and standards, and has no legal significance or significance.”
My fellow Guyanese, I have given you all these details because I want to emphasize not only that we, Guyanese, consider our case to be just and equitable, but also the international community.
We have friends.
We are not alone.
We have the international community behind us.
I also want to advise that last night I received a letter from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Antonio Guterres, in which he restated on January 30, 2018, that he had chosen the ICJ as the “method to be used for the resolution of the dispute. ”As he was empowered to do under an agreement signed in Geneva by all parties in 1966.
The Secretary General acknowledged that the Court was proceeding to determine the merits of the case.
Noting that the bilateral relationship between Guyana and Venezuela is “broader than the debate” should the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela wish to seize the role of its good offices “to tackle other important issues,” he continues be available for that purpose.
Guyana is fully committed to the ICJ process.
We believe that world-class international law and independent international lawyers offer the most credible and definitive way to end Venezuelan strife.
Therefore, we will continue to follow that course.
At the same time, Guyana is not opposed to engaging with Venezuela on bilateral issues in which we have a common interest.
These would include dealing with the growing number of Venezuelans who are now seeking asylum in Guyana, as well as how we could co-operate, as neighboring states, in combating the COVID-19 pandemic that has saved all of ‘ n two countries.
However, while such discussions are welcome, especially if the UN Secretary-General wishes to play the role of good offices, a clear demonstration by Venezuela will have to precede any further acts of aggression against Guyana. , starting with the release. of the Guyanese fishermen and their ships.
Guyanese Fellow, we are a peaceful nation.
We always choose the path of peace and the rule of international law to resolve our issues.
We will stay firmly on that path, as we seek justice for our country.
I now turn to how we tackle the other threat we face – COVID-19.