On December 18, 2020, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered a historic ruling, announcing that it had jurisdiction to hear the case concerning the Guyana / Venezuela border dispute. The ruling was widely celebrated by members from all sections of society in Guyana, as it paved the way for the World Court to hear the substantive case on the border debate.
Two days after the important verdict, a distinguished jurist and international public servant of Guyanese origin, Dr Bertrand Ramcharan, proposed in an opinion piece entitled, “The reckless decision of the World Court on border dispute” conducted by Stabroek News, different view.
Dr Ramcharran essentially argued that the World Court had “invented a land border dispute” when, among other arguments, he inserted the word ‘dispute’ in his ruling last Thursday.
It should be noted that the ICJ has not “invented a land border dispute,” but Venezuela did when suddenly in 1962 it denied the 1899 Arbitration Award.
In support of his claim, Dr Ramcharran, in quoting from the court’s ruling that states, “Venezuela considers the ‘subject of the Geneva Treaty to be the territorial dispute, not the validity of the 1899 Prize,’ erroneously concludes that “The World In fact, the court has given Venezuela a gift to hold that there is a ‘territorial dispute.’ ”
This claim is further from the truth. The court has only noted the notorious fact that Venezuela was claiming the Essequibo on the basis of its absurd theory that the 1899 Prize was “void.” That is the “dispute” that has afflicted Guyana since its independence 54 years ago.
That was exactly the reason for the 1966 Geneva Agreement: to resolve the controversy arising from Venezuela’s baseless contention. And now, the matter is finally before the court, which will resolve it once and for all.
Dr. Ramcharan also makes much of the fact that the court uses the term ‘argument’ as a synonym for the word ‘dispute,’ when he himself recognizes that a dispute in international law is nothing but a “point disagreement” law or indeed, a conflict of legal opinion or interests. ”
So, is there an unfounded allegation, mentioned in the word ‘dispute’, that constituted the legal challenge, between Guyana and Venezuela on the validity of the 1899 Prize and the border it established? The answer of course is, yes. Otherwise, we would not have suffered for 54 years in the shadow of Venezuela’s illegal territorial claims.
Is Venezuela’s allegation of no merit whatsoever? Again, the answer is heartbreaking, yes! Otherwise, our powerful neighbor would not be so afraid of losing the case, which explains why he chose not to participate. Fortunately, the court made clear that it will still go ahead and make a binding decision that Venezuela cannot ignore.
Dr. Ramcharan also makes much of the court’s finding that his jurisdiction does not include “events that occurred after the signing of the Geneva Agreement” in 1966. He concludes, again inaccurately, that the court will now “disregard illegal occupation Venezuela from the island of Ankoko and other illegal territorial invasions. ”
Again, this is not the case. Venezuela’s illegal possession of half of Guyana from the island of Ankoko and all its illegal territorial encroachments, along with its attempt to encroach Guyana’s maritime areas, are all based on its assertion that the 1899 Prize is invalid. Once the court confirms the validity of the 1899 Prize, Venezuela can no longer claim any part of Guyana’s sovereign territory, including Ankoko as well as maritime areas off the coast of Essequibo.
Finally, based on this series of misrepresentations, Dr. Ramcharan argues that Guyana must “apply to remedy the court’s decision, or face the risk that Venezuela will recklessly take advantage of the gift that the World Court has given them.”
First, if he had read the Rules of Court, he would know that a decision cannot be appealed, and in any event, it makes no sense to appeal against a decision that is entirely in Guyana’s favor! Secondly, if Venezuela was given such a valuable gift, why immediately overturned the decision? Maybe after reading Dr.’s opinion. Ramcharan, whose position could be reconsidered by Venezuela, now that fellow Guyanese have given them a new interpretation that they did not think about when reading the verdict.
It is difficult to see how this historic victory for Guyana is a “reckless” decision by the World Court, which includes the most distinguished judges elected by the United Nations. The only recklessness here is Dr. Ramcharan, who seeks to manipulate the Guyanese public into questioning what is widely recognized as a turning point in the defense of our national sovereignty. It is very unfortunate that Guyanese thinking is used to defy the extraordinary achievement that all Guyanese, of all political parties, races, religions and ethnicities, have unconditionally supported.
With a favorable decision on jurisdiction, Guyana is now on the verge of getting a ruling from the world’s highest court that will forever put Venezuela’s unjust claims to rest 75 percent of our territory. Surely this is a cause for celebration. Let’s put the courtesy aside and get on as One People and One Nation with One Destiny.