GEORGETOWN, Guyana–December 20th,2020–President Mohamed Irfaan Ali feels that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling this morning should be celebrated by all of Guyana and should be seen as a healing point for the country.
The President and other officials were at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre to view the historic ruling by the ICJ that it has jurisdiction to hear Guyana’s case concerning the validity of the 1899 arbitral award establishing the wobbly boundary line between Guyana and Venezuela.
A jubilant eruption resonated around the venue when the announcement was made on the visual monitors and President Ali instantly called and thanked the lawyers who had represented Guyana.
The President said it was a privilege to speak to Sir Shridath, but noted that the victory was one that took hard work and dedication from many persons, over many years.
“I want this morning to go beyond our lawyers and our legal team, I want to thank all of those who played such an integral part of this process, the names are too many to mention, many of whom are in this room.”
President Ali pointed out that despite political differences Guyana’s Governments over the years have been steadfast in their desire to protect our sovereignty and resolute in defending our territorial integrity.
“We have always stood together, we have always recognized together, and demonstrated to the international community together that we are one and that we are united on our sovereignty and borders.”
The President noted that the ruling was a great victory for Guyana and it should be used to unite the country going forward.
“This victory is testimony to what we can achieve as a people when we are united and this should be a healing point for our country, there is no compromise on our sovereignty, we are together on this. And it is with this same spirit that I think we should be together on the development and future of our country.”
The President also thanked the United Nations for choosing the court for the resolution of the case and was hopeful that Venezuela, who had opted to not participate, would reconsider its decision.
“I express the hope now that the court has ruled decisively in favor of the jurisdictions to rule on merits that our neighbors would consider participating fully in the proceedings.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Hugh Todd also called the ruling a victory for Guyana. He said that it was also a victory for multilateralism, indicating that Guyana likes to be on the right side of the law.
The Minister said that although Guyana respects the Venezuelan people, it is imperative that Guyana protects its territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Despite the ruling, the Minister noted that there was still a lot to do, but was confident that an end to the process is in sight.
The land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela has been disputed since its colonial inception between British and Spanish powers in South America.
In the 1840s, the British government had the border unilaterally surveyed, but the proposed line encroached on Venezuelan territorial claims.
The boundary has since been arbitrated (1899) and bilaterally agreed upon following demarcation (1905) but remains in conflict. While the British line, accepted by Guyana, is the current de facto boundary, Venezuela maintains a historic claim to all territory currently administered by Guyana west of the Essequibo River.
The de facto boundary follows a series of rivers, watersheds, and other geographic features for 829 kilometers from the Atlantic coast to the tripoint with Brazil on Mount Roraima. Venezuela’s claim along the Essequibo River extends for 1,034 kilometers before reaching Brazilian territory.
At stake is approximately 142,795 square kilometers that is currently administered by Guyana. Offshore the disputed land territory is maritime space that was recently discovered to be rich in hydrocarbon resources, upping the stakes of the land boundary dispute.
Guyana submitted the dispute to the International Court of Justice in 2018. Despite Venezuela’s withdrawal from the case, proceedings are currently ongoing.