MIAMI – Venezuela should not mistake the objections by some Guyanese to certain aspects of Guyana’s oil sector development as a lack of commitment to their country’s firm position that the 1899 Arbitral Award which set the boundaries between the two countries is, and has always been valid, says President of the Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce (GACC), Wesley Kirton.
International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is the United Nations’ World Court, headquartered in the Hague, last week ruled in favor of Guyana when it rejected submissions by Venezuela which sought to have the United Kingdom adjoined to the case. This is the second defeat for Venezuela which had earlier tried to argue that the ICJ had no jurisdiction to hear the matter.
In an exclusive interview with SFLCN.com Kirton said Venezuela’s response to last week’s ruling is cause for concern due to what can be interpreted to be an underlying “treating tone”. He added that “Guyanese expect Venezuela to respect its territorial integrity and to refrain from rhetoric and actions which would heighten tension in the Americas. Mr. Maduro ought to understand that most countries if not all in this hemisphere want this region to remain at peace and to be stable and would hardly stand idly by if he poses threats to peace and stability. This can be said to be the position of the international community as well which is grappling with the negative impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Referring to Venezuela’s claim to five-eighths of Guyana’s landmass and maritime space as being based on a “jumbie story”, Kirton had this advice for the Venezuelan president: “Mr. Maduro should not underestimate the resolve and commitment of Guyanese to ensuring that they are not bullied into accepting his country’s spurious claim. Guyana is a democracy where citizens are free to express views on various issues and he should not mistake criticisms by sections of society on our oil and gas development as a weakness in the unity of the Guyanese people regarding Venezuela’s claim.”
The GACC president said he is hopeful that both Venezuela and Guyana would accept the final ruling of the ICJ on this matter which could come by 2025. He said Guyana remained firm in its belief that the World Court will rule in its favor. In the meantime, he said, both countries should work toward improving their bilateral relations in various areas of common interest and advocated for Guyana to appoint a competent ambassador to the neighboring Bolivarian Republic to help in the process of strengthening ties.
Kirton counts among Guyana’s staunch supporters of the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award; Brazil, CARICOM Member States, the United States and the UK and “those countries that respect the rule of law, the validity of international legal instruments and that have a commitment to a world at peace.”
Asked if Guyana is prepared to respond to any military aggression on the part of Venezuela, Kirton responded: “Like all Guyanese and peace-loving people the world over I hope it never comes to that. The Court and diplomacy are always the best weapons. But in my view Guyana is not without some powerful friends whose friendship can serve to maintain peace through strength. It is therefore important that Guyana knows who its true and powerful friends are and seeks to maintain excellent relations with those countries.”