Address to the Nation by His Excellency Dr Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces on the actions of the Government of the Republic of the Republic of Venezuela
January 9, 2021
I had not anticipated talking to you at a national broadcast so soon after my New Year’s Day statement.
But there has been a turbulent incident involving our territorial integrity that requires me to speak to you directly, in full transparency, and to keep you fully informed.
As you know, Guyana has hosted a Government-accredited Embassy in Venezuela.
Similarly, we have continued to welcome our Venezuelan Embassy in Guyana which is accredited to our Government.
That is, Guyana has kept all official channels of communication open to the Government of Venezuela.
We have done so even as we pursued our right to ask the Secretary-General of the United Nations to refer to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the long-standing contention with Venezuela over an arbitrary 1899 ruling.
At no time have we taken any statements regarding the ongoing inflammatory remarks, emanating from the Government and other parties in Venezuela, other than to continue to affirm our nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We have always chosen a path of peaceful resolution of the Venezuelan issue within international law.
It is therefore of great concern that the President of Venezuela, Mr Nicolas Maduro, issued a decree claiming for Venezuela’s sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights in the waters and seabed off the coast of Guyana, west of the Essequibo River.
I am reminded that sovereignty over this coast, and the land territory to which it is attached, was awarded to Guyana (then British Guiana) in the 1899 Arbitration Award, whose validity and binding character Guyana is confident that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is upheld.
Unfortunately, by ruling that the seas adjacent to this territory belong to Venezuela, at least two basic principles of international law have been violated.
The first offense is that no State can unilaterally set its international borders, whether land or maritime.
Setting an international border under international law can only result from an agreement between an agreement between neighboring States, or a binding decision of an international court or arbitral tribunal.
Therefore, this attempt by Venezuela to seek, unilaterally, to repair its land and maritime borders with Guyana is legally void, which cannot, and will not, be respected by any other State in the world, by including Guyana.
The second fundamental offense of international law is based on the fact that, under the established rules of international law, there is a fundamental principle that “the land dominates the sea”.
This means that sovereignty, and sovereign rights in the sea and the seabed, derive from title to the land that forms the coast to which that seas and bed lie.
As Guyana is sovereign over the coast west of the Essequibo River, as far as Punta Playa, it follows that, as a result, only Guyana can enjoy sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights over the surrounding sea and seabed .
This is exactly the issue before the ICJ, which the ICJ decided, on 18 December 2020, to resolve, ie whether Guyana or Venezuela are sovereign over that land territory.
Guyana is confident that the Court will resolve the matter in its favor, and that this will also necessarily settle the issue of maritime rights in the adjacent sea and seabed.
However, under international law, it is now up to the International Court of Justice to decide.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s attempt to claim for itself the seas and seabed near the coast west of the Essequibo River is another legal void, which will receive no legal attention from any other State in the world, including Guyana.
The second wretched action taken by President Maduro on January 7th was to overturn the ICJ’s decision issued on December 18th, in which case it was determined that it had jurisdiction to hear and award the Arbitration Award, made on October 3rd, 1899, including that it remains valid and legally binding on both States.
Under international law, the Court’s decision, adopted by an overwhelming majority of its judges, is final and legally binding on Guyana and Venezuela.
To be clear, I highlight the following two things:
One, it has long been a fundamental principle of international law that an international court, including the ICJ, has the competence to determine its own jurisdiction, as the ICJ did on December 18th, 2020.
Two, the UN Charter obliges all Member States to comply with their obligations under international law, including as determined by the ICJ.
In this respect, Venezuela does not have the “right” to “overturn” the Court’s binding decision.
What’s more, its legal advisers would know that to do so, clearly breaches its legal obligations, and will not be accepted by the ICJ, the United Nations or any other body that maintains international law, and ‘ to norms and its practices.
As President of Guyana, I express the hope that the Venezuelan government will reconsider its position and decide to participate in the rest of the case before the ICJ, as the Court determines the validity and binding character of the 1899 Arbitration Award and the international a border he created.
However, while expressing that sincere hope, I also want to be clear that if Venezuela chooses to boycott the ICJ case, it will not prevent or delay the Court from adjudicating the case.
The Court rules specifically provide that the deliberate absence of one of the parties will not prevent him from deciding a case.
I draw attention to one other matter concerning the case before the ICJ.
Unfortunately, in an effort to discredit the oldest and most respected global Court, Venezuela has misrepresented the nature of the ICJ’s recent administrative actions.
That act was to invite the parties to meet with the President of the Court to find out the parties’ views on scheduling the written pleadings for the merits stage of the case.
This is standard practice for the Court.
The purpose is for the parties to specify how much time would be needed to prepare and submit the Guyana Monument and the Venezuelan Counter-Memorial.
This is the only matter to be discussed at the meeting.
Therefore, it is wrong, and misleading, for Venezuela to note that the Court arranged a “hearing” on the substance of the case without giving it sufficient time to prepare its case.
In fact, Venezuela will have more than a year to prepare its case.
As fellow citizens, I have noted that one newspaper in Guyana attributed a tweet to President Maduro who allegedly “promised to vow the Essequibo”.
Research carried out by my Government tweet of President Maduro does not confirm the newspaper assertion.
Therefore, my Government intends to act only on those official statements, which come from proven Venezuela.
In this regard, earlier today, I instructed Foreign Minister Hugh Todd to summon the Venezuelan Embassy in Charge Officer in Georgetown to the Foreign Ministry to express Guyana’s deep concern about the decree issued last Thursday.
The Officer in Charge was told to convey to the Venezuelan authorities in Caracas, that Guyana, in accordance with international law, and in the assertion of his sovereignty and territorial integrity, completely rejected the decree issued by President Maduro.
Guyana will continue on the path of peaceful resolution of this issue in accordance with international law and the jurisdiction of the ICJ.
We urge our neighbor Venezuela to do the same.
In the meantime, we warn the International Community, including our sister states in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and in America of the danger to international peace and security threatened by Venezuela’s decree last Thursday which violates international fundamental principles. law.
My fellow citizens we will continue our bipartisan and national approach to this issue, ensuring that the right and the law are on our side.
Please ensure that my Government – and I personally – continue to keep you informed as any further developments take place in this matter.
Guyana is our land – a Guyanese country – one people, united and dedicated in our dedication to it.
Thanks for listening.
God Bless Guyana, God Bless the Guyanese people.
His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali,
President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana a
Chief of the Armed Forces