Just one day before our 53rd Independence anniversary, Kaieteur News carried a report that suggested giving up territory to Venezuela is no big deal. Apparently, University of Houston Instructor Tom (not Tim) Mitro felt qualified enough to deem our territorial dispute with Venezuela “not as large as it is being portrayed to be by some.”
Even bolder, Mitro suggested that, in an “extreme case”, Guyana might yield twenty percent of our discovered oil reserves to Venezuela to quell their complaints.
I am unsure which strikes me more: the arrogance to minimise over 100 years of history, or the gall to suggest that Guyana should yield its sovereign territory as an appropriate solution.
Perhaps I’ll start with the most offensive detail — the timing of it all. Mr. Mitro’s remarks came just one day before we celebrated fifty-three years of independence from colonial rule. To witlessly propose such an out-of-touch idea on the eve of a sacred holiday is a blatant slap in the face of all those who laboured, rallied and lobbied for our self-government.
Since he seems in need of it, allow me to dispense a history lesson and wisdom for Mr. Mitro, free of charge.
In 1899, there was an arbitral tribunal that clarified the borders between Guyana and Venezuela. Guyanese opinion that the award of Essequibo was full and final has remained steadfast since then; Venezuelan opinion challenging the award has also remained steadfast since then. With neither side budging, and for Guyana, rightfully so, the prolonged Guyana-Venezuela border issue has festered.
However, amidst its festering, the issue has remained between Venezuela and Guyana, with occasional ad hoc intervention from the International Court of Justice. As the University of Houston professor is neither of those parties, he has no business speaking on this issue.
While Mr. Mitro may be a self-ascribed industry consultant, his presumptions fail to consider the historical context, local sentiment, national sovereignty; and, frankly, the appropriateness of inserting himself in this dialogue.
Perhaps he felt emboldened by his close professional relationship with former Petroleum Advisor Jan Mangal. It may not be well known, but Mr. Mitro spent over three decades of his professional career at Chevron, and that time overlapped with Mr. Mangal’s tenure at Chevron.
To me, this is not a coincidence. Suddenly, a random professor from Texas has an opinion on how we should handle our sovereign land and approach production sharing agreements that are already signed, sealed and delivered. This smacks of Mr. Mangal, and their existing camaraderie makes it all the more obvious.
My advice to Mr. Mitro is for him to leave the matters of national security and sovereignty to the people of Guyana, and mind the business that pays him, because the people of Guyana do not; and we don’t need him butting in with out-of-touch opinions.