Home Letters Guyanese must be proud of Prime Minister Mark Phillips’s representation overseas
Prime Minister Mark Phillips led a Government delegation that included Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira; Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal; Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond; and Head of the Guyana Office for Investment, Dr Peter Ramsaroop, to the United States of America.
They spent a week making the rounds in South Florida at the invitation of the South Florida-based Guyanese American Chamber of Commerce, under the theme “Doing Business with Guyana.” One area of their focus was meeting with members of the Guyanese diaspora to discuss investment opportunities and the transformation,
while representing Guyana’s position as it relates to the border dispute with Venezuela.
Venezuela is claiming 70 per cent of Guyana’s territory in the Essequibo, with the land being claimed by the Bolivarian state also covers Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) into the lucrative Stabroek Block.
Prime Minister Mark Phillips was quick to point out to the world that the Treaty of Washington of 1899 settled the border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela. However, Guyana will look towards the court and the rule of law, particularly the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to settle this issue.
One must remember that, last December, after decades of impasse, Guyana gained a significant victory in the attempt to definitively settle the controversy when the ICJ ruled that it has jurisdiction to determine the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award on the frontier between Guyana and Venezuela.
The Court – the principal judicial organ of the United Nations – also declared that it could address the related question of the definitive settlement of the land boundary controversy between the two countries.
Venezuela has chosen not to participate in the case. However, earlier this month, during talks in Mexico City, Venezuela’s Government and Opposition representatives reached a partial agreement on its claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region. Venezuela has sought to claim most of Guyana’s Atlantic waters, which includes the offshore Stabroek Block, where ExxonMobil is leading.
Last Thursday, ExxonMobil announced a massive new discovery of oil deposits in offshore Guyana, and increased its estimate of the discovered recoverable resource to approximately 10 billion oil-equivalent barrels.
The finding adds to previous recoverable resource estimates which, since 2015, have added millions of dollars to the Guyanese economy, as well as jobs. But the oil discovery also revived the border dispute that was supposedly settled in 1899.
Located west of the Essequibo River, the disputed region consists of 61,600 square miles. After the matter failed to be settled at the level of the United Nations, it was transferred to the International Court of Justice.
As Guyanese, we must be proud of Prime Minister Mark Phillips’s representation overseas, which was commendable on the internal scene as he confirmed that Guyana remains confident that the International Court of Justice would rule in our favour.
Guyana has maintained its respect for that process, and we have continued to support that process. We believe that international law will finally be the mode to settle the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela.
The development of Guyana’s oil and gas sector is its best chance to maintain our country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty against unsubstantiated claims and aggression by Venezuela. The border controversy has plagued Guyana’s relations with Venezuela for more than a century, and now a case on the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award that settled the border sits with the International Court of Justice.
But although the process is ongoing, Venezuela has proven it is unwilling to cooperate with the global institution. Therefore, Guyana needs additional reinforcements, much of which can be found with regional and international allies that will be drawn to support the country due to its massive oil reserves.
Guyana already enjoys the support of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), but if this support is backed by material benefits, any threat to Guyanese sovereignty and territorial integrity has tangible implications for the region.
Also, Guyana has been noted as one of the top five countries that will have some of the world’s top oil resources, which means massive oil consumers and future investors, such as China and India, will remain engaged, as they are likely to benefit from the country’s future prosperity.
It is in our interest that this controversy is finally settled, so that oil investors feel comfortable that they are coming to invest in a country that has jurisdiction over all of its geographic space.