Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister holds virtual meeting with Venezuelan counterpart
Detention of vessels, crew members by Venezuelan authorities
– protest note issued demanding immediate release of crews
– commits to reunite detained crew members with families
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd held a virtual meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, Jorge Arreaza to discuss the status of Guyanese-registered fishing vessels – the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf – and crews which were detained by the Venezuelan Coast Guard.
The meeting took place Monday afternoon. According to a statement from the Ministry, the meeting would specifically focus on the welfare and release of the crew, their catch, and vessels. Efforts to make contact with Minister Todd following the meeting were futile.
In addition, on Monday, the Minister also called in the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Moses Chavez, to transfer a protest note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela.
The protest note firmly condemned the illegal detention of the captains and crews of the Guyanese-registered fishing vessels and called for their immediate release.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry also stated that the Government is using all diplomatic channels to ensure the safe return of the 12-member crew and vessels to Guyana.
In a statement issued, Minister Todd took the opportunity of the meeting with Chavez to voice his concerns on the matter. The Foreign Minister also highlighted the regional zone of peace and called for Venezuela to operate in a manner consistent with international rule of law.
In the note, the Minister also reiterated Guyana’s commitment to the International Court of Justice as a means of bringing to a close the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy. He had further added that based on latitude and longitude, the two vessels were well within Guyana’s territory.
“The action coming out of Caracas is distasteful,” Todd said in the note, while the statement also listed the coordinates that the two vessels were intercepted at by Venezuelan naval vessel Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24, while operating off the coast of Waini Point. According to the statement, the coordinates were N 80 49’ 06”/ w 590 37’ 40” W.
Meanwhile, Minister Todd also met with the owners of the two vessels, Prem Kumar Lallbachan of the Lady Nayera and Trevor Daniels of the Sea Wolf.
“During the meeting, he conveyed the Government’s commitment towards the release of the crews and vessels. The Foreign Minister also provided the owners with an update on the Government’s efforts including the issuance of a statement condemning the recent actions of Venezuela and the transmission of a note verbale in protest of the Venezuelan navy’s actions,” an issued statement noted.
The statement quoted the Minister as assuring the owners that they will remain in contact with the owners and that the Government is “doing all within our power to reunite the crew members with their families and help you to continue with your business.”
Late Saturday evening, the Foreign Affairs Ministry had revealed that the two Guyanese-registered fishing vessels were operating off the coast of Waini Point in Guyana’s EEZ when they were intercepted by the Venezuelan naval vessel, Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24.
In fact, the statement said that the Venezuelan vessel was illegally sailing within Guyana’s EEZ and contiguous zone when it intercepted and boarded the vessels, whose captains were instructed to chart a course to Port Guiria, where they were detained. According to the Ministry, the Guyana Government was not notified of the detention of its nationals, in contravention of established norms.
The crew of the Lady Nayera include Captain Richard Ramnarine and his crew members Ramlakan Kamal, Nick Raghubar, Javin Boston, Michael Domingo and Joel Joseph. On the other hand, the Sea Wolf was captained by Captain Toney Garraway, while the crew members included Errol Gardener, Orland Roberts, Christopher Shaw, Shirvin Oneil and Randy Henry.
The detention of the two vessels comes on the heels of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s recent presidential decree which reinforced his country’s illegal claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region.
Additionally, the Venezuelan President had announced that he has written to Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) Antonio Guterres, to lead direct negotiations between the two countries, as opposed to the binding judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
That option has been exhausted, however, as the UN tried to mediate discussions between Guyana and Venezuela for years as part of an ultimately futile good offices process until Guyana activated its right to take Venezuela to the ICJ in 2018 to get a final ruling on the border issue.
In the wake of Maduro’s decree, condemnation has flowed from President Dr Irfaan Ali, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon, the United States and Canada, as well as the Caribbean Community (Caricom).