July 4, 2015 | By KNews
– “Gunboat diplomacy must be condemned”
Venezuela’s aggression towards Guyana has dire implications for the entire region, Head of State, David Granger, told top leaders of the region yesterday in Barbados, as he called for a collective condemnation.
The President was speaking at the 36th CARICOM Heads of Government Summit being held in Barbados.
Granger’s inaugural address to CARICOM leaders was widely expected to centre on Guyana’s current troubles with neighbouring Venezuela, a key trading partner for oil and rice. And he did not disappoint.
Venezuela has restated its age-old claims to Essequibo and a recent unilateral decree has also turned that country’s attention to Guyana’s waters in the Atlantic Ocean, including where a US drill ship recently discovered oil.
The move had angered other small states which are also part of CARICOM and whose waters are being affected by the decree.
But a lucrative oil deal that Venezuela has with a number of Caribbean territories, that are part of CARICOM, has been seen as a hurdle that the regional leaders would have wanted to shy away from.
Venezuela’s President, Nicolas Maduro, is expected in Barbados today where it is hoped he meets with President Granger for talks on a way forward.
Addressing several global leaders, including Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, President Granger’s almost 16-minute address, focused on the implications of Venezuela’s claims on the region’s integration thrust.
Guyana now more than ever needs the support of CARICOM.
According to Granger, as Guyana approaches the 50th Independence anniversary next year, it is still carrying a ‘monkey on its back.’ “That monkey is the unbearable burden of an oppressive and obnoxious claim on our land and sea space.”
Reminding CARICOM that it has been a source of solace and steadfast support for Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over the years, Granger urged for more of that support now.
“Guyana has borne the brunt of having funding for a major hydro-electricity project blocked; of having investors intimidated; of having its citizens in border areas harassed and of having petroleum exploration vessels expelled and seized by gunboats.”
Stressing that border issues have been settled more than a century ago, Granger argued that Venezuela over the past 50 years has become even more aggressive.
“That country continues to threaten the development of Guyana, a CARICOM member state, both on land and at sea. That country, mindful, of its superior wealth and military and naval strength – and unmindful of the plight of the poor people of one of the world’s smallest and least populated states – has again resorted to intimidation and the threat of the use of force.”
Guyana would be relying on the security of the United Nations and the shelter of international law to bring a peaceful end to Venezuela’s claims.
“Naval superiority cannot be allowed to supplant the supremacy of the law. Gunboat diplomacy has no place in the 21st century Caribbean and must be condemned where ever it occurs.”
He said that CARICOM might be a community of small states but it deserves and demands to be treated as equals among the nations of the world.
“Let us not be afraid to re-engage the rest of the hemisphere as a natural family; as natural allies and as a force for peace and international law.
Granger, a historian, made it clear that CARICOM member states must be conscious that they are powerless as individual states.
“We are powerful as a community of sovereign states, speaking with a united voice, to adopt an attitude and to gain amplitude in order to influence the global agenda and resolve the many issues that confront small states.”
The exclusive economic zones (EEZ) are integral to the small states’ survival because of the dependence on the waters for travel, trade, tourism, fishing and petroleum exploitation.
“These waters are our common patrimony; they are ours to possess, ours to protect, ours to bequeath to posterity. We must remove any potential sources of conflict among our member states by ensuring the process of maritime delimitation in accordance with the international Law of the Sea.”
He said that the recent unilateral decree by Venezuela was timed to coincide with Guyana’s Independence Day on 26th May and the actual day of “my inauguration as President of my country. The Decree lays claim to much of the coastline and most of the exclusive economic zone of Guyana. This Decree has dire implications for the entire Region but most particularly, the eastern tier of states – Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.”
Granger said that Guyana considers the issuance of the decree by Venezuela as an act of aggression against its sovereignty. “It is an assault on our right to access and to develop our maritime resources. We ask this Conference to affirm its solidarity with Guyana to repudiate this decree.”
Granger reminded the gathering of leaders that Guyana has always been in the forefront of regional integration for 50 years – from CARIFTA to CARICOM.
“Guyana remains steadfast in its commitment to this great regional project. Guyana will not falter in its duty to CARICOM. Guyana will play its part, both inside and outside of this Conference, to support the regional integration process. Guyana will work with its sister states to pursue the mission of deepening and strengthening the integration process. We owe it to our peoples. We owe it to each other. We owe it to the Caribbean, our natural home.”
He believes that the best days for the region are yet ahead.
“This is an auspicious year, time and place to renew our commitment to the ideals of our founding fathers. This is the occasion – the Bridgetown moment – to remind ourselves of CARICOM’s vision and founding principles and give our peoples the fruits of Independence and Integration —that they all deserve.”