By Gordon Moseley
The Government of Guyana and the Opposition met this afternoon and have both completely rejected Venezuela’s planned referendum on Guyana’s Essequibo region.
President Irfaan Ali and a Government team met and held discussions on the Venezuelan issue with Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton and his team, for more than an hour at the President’s Office.
At the end of the meeting, Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton said the Government and Opposition are unified on rejecting the Venezuelan claims and planned referendum.
“It is pernicious, and dangerous and we hope it will not go forward. It is very aggressive by nature and militarizes and issue that really should be for diplomatic resolution”, Norton said.
In a statement last evening, the Government of Guyana announced that it was alerting the international community about the planned Venezuelan referendum, which seeks among other things, to make Essequibo a new state of Venezuela.
In response, the Venezuelan Government in its own statement today said the President of Guyana has continuously rejected talks on the border issue. The border controversy is currently before the International Court of Justice. Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton said he believes that Venezuela is attempting to move the issue away from the International Court of Justice, but those attempts must be rejected.
He said “you have to understand what Venezuela is trying to do. Venezuela is trying to shift this thing away from the ICJ and we have to ensure that it stays with the ICJ. Our best option is with the ICJ and Venezuela in this particular document (release) argues unfortunately and erroneously, that they are trying to now root it in the Geneva Agreement. But this process (ICJ) is as a result of the Geneva agreement. We have tried for years, the Good Officer, and it didn’t work and finally we decided in keeping with the Geneva Agreement, that it will go to the ICJ, and we have urged Venezuela to make their presentation to the ICJ, but this is rooted in the Geneva Agreement and what Venezuela is trying to do is to make it appear as if we are, the Government of Guyana and all of us are rejecting dialogue, we are not. It is from the Geneva agreement that we have ended up at the ICJ and that is in keeping with that agreement”.
Following today’s meeting, the Guyana Government and Opposition have agreed to engage more regularly on matters regarding the border controversy, and the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Foreign Affairs is expected to meet on Wednesday.
“We stressed the need for public education and we pointed out that even when there is public education, it is not continuous and we argued that going forward, there should be continuous education. And the President agreed, and he said they have began to work on it and we are happy because we want continuous public education to ensure that people understand the issues and are supportive”, Opposition Leader Norton said.
Leader of the Alliance for Change and Opposition Member of Parliament, Khemraj Ramjattan said it is important for the Government and the Opposition to be united on the border issue, as they have always been over the years. Mr. Ramjattan told reporters that “we want to carry it now to the Parliamentary level, whether that Parliamentary level would be the whole Assembly, and also to the National Committees”.
Opposition spokesperson on Foreign Relations, MP Amanza Walton-Desir also attended the meeting as part of the Opposition delegation. She said the Opposition has not shirked from its support of the Government on the border issue.
“Sometime last week I issued a call for the reconvening of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Foreign Relations, and I am happy to say that the call has been heeded and we will meet tomorrow, Wednesday, and coming out of that, that Committee will set the agenda for the joint interaction that we will see going forward”, MP Walton-Desir explained.
In its statement last evening, the Guyana Government said the planned Venezuelan referendum seeks to annex Guyana’s Essequibo region, and it has since alerted the international community to the actions being carried out by the Government of Venezuela, which have the potential to incite violence and to threaten the peace and security of the State of Guyana and by extension the Caribbean region.