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Regional News

July 31, 2007
Caricom support for Guyana on border controversy with Venezuela
Guyana Chronicle

GEORGETOWN, Guyana - Guyana continues to receive support from its regional colleagues to resolve the border controversy with neighbouring Venezuela even as a decision on the Summit issues is imminent.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Rudy Insanally said that at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government and the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) meetings this issue was raised.

He said, “As in the past, Guyana has received fulsome support for its position in the matter and for the preservation of the sovereign right to have its territory fully.”

There had been a hiatus in the issue, since the death of Oliver Jackman the Good Officer appointed by the United Nations.

The onus is on the two countries to find a way forward since this development requires both countries to be in communication to chart the course for resolution, Minister Insanally said.

The Foreign Minister said that he had engaged in a brief exchange with his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro at the Organisation of American States General Assembly in Panama.

Minister Insanally said it was suggested that Minister Maduro might visit Guyana soon to discuss the general state of relations between the neighbouring countries. This, he posited, would give both countries a chance to focus on the level of co-operation needed.

A map of British Guiana published in 1840 started a controversy between the two countries. Venezuela protested, claiming the entire area west of the Essequibo River was its territory. Negotiations between Britain and Venezuela over the boundary began, but the two nations could reach no compromise.

Since then negotiations and diplomatic exchanges have been ongoing to induce a favourable resolution.

In 1996, Sir Alistair McIntyre visited Guyana to begin his task as the UN Good Officer, followed by Oliver Jackman in 1999.

In the same year, Guyana had lodged a protest to the UN against Venezuela over the intrusion by Venezuelan aircraft into Guyana’s airspace. Venezuela is Guyana’s neighbour on the west. (GINA)


August 2, 2007
The report ignores the Treaty of Washington and the Arbitral Award of 1899
Letter to the Editor - Joseph E. Singh, Major General (Retired)

Dear Editor,

In defence of our territorial integrity, I am moved to correct a grave inaccuracy published on page 2 in the Guyana Chronicle of Tuesday, July 31, 2007 titled: "Caricom support for Guyana on border controversy with Venezuela".

I refer to paragraphs 8 and 9 of the article which state as follows: "A map of British Guiana published in 1840 started a controversy between the two countries. Venezuela protested, claiming the entire area west of the Essequibo River as its territory. Negotiations between Britain and Venezuela over the boundary began, but the two nations could reach no compromise. Since then negotiations and diplomatic exchanges have been going on to induce a favourable resolution".

The grave inaccuracy that I refer to is that there was compromise, both countries agreed in what came to be known as the Treaty of Washington 1897, to submit the dispute to an international arbitration tribunal. The tribunal itself consisted of five persons, two representing Venezuela (one of whom was the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court), two from the United Kingdom (two senior judges) and a fifth selected by the other four, was a distinguished Russian jurist and President of the Tribunal.

Venezuela elected to be represented before the tribunal by a team of four American lawyers including a former American President, General Benjamin Harrison, and a former American Secretary of War, General Benjamin Tracy.

"After fifty-four (54) days of oral argument in Paris and the examination of voluminous historical records, on October 3, 1899, the Tribunal unanimously issued an award laying down the boundary as successive generations of Guyanese and Venezuelans have known it".

The boundary as defined by the award was duly demarcated on the ground by a British/Venezuela Mixed Commission. It was also delineated on a map signed by representatives of both sides and formally submitted to each government by the Mixed Commission under a joint report dated January 10, 1905.

British Guiana and Venezuela consistently respected the award in accordance with article 13 of the Treaty of Washington under which Venezuela and the United Kingdom engaged "to consider the result of the proceedings of the Tribunal of Arbitration as a full perfect and final settlement of all the questions referred to the Arbitrators".

It was not until 1962, acting on a posthumous note by Mallet Prevost, a junior lawyer on the Venezuelan team of 1899, that Venezuela sought to impugn the validity of the award on the ground that it was the result of a political deal between the United Kingdom and Russia.

Venezuela raised the issue of the boundary at the United Nations in 1962, illegally occupied our half of Ankoko Island in the Cuyuni in 1966 and another Mixed Commission under the Geneva Agreement of February 17, 1966 was established by the signatories Venezuela, the United Kingdom and British Guiana, to "seek satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom which has arisen as a result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the Frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela is null and void".

The Guyana Chronicle article seems to suggest that the negotiations of 1840 were unresolved, when in fact, they were resolved as evidenced by the award of October 3, 1899 and the signed boundary survey map of 1905. These were rejected by Venezuela in 1962 and the legacy of this rejection was bequeathed to us at the time of our Independence from the United Kingdom on May 26, 1966 and the saga continues!

Yours faithfully,
Joseph G. Singh
Major General (retired)

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