Former foreign minister welcomes move to ICJ

Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett

Lauding the decision by the United Nations Secre-tary General, Antonio Guterres to send the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy  to the Inter-national Court of Justice after decades of failed talks, former Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett has appealed for unity among political parties here on the matter.

“I was more than pleased when very early in his tenure, President (David) Granger indicated that his Government will follow the same course of action that the PPP/C administration had initiated with the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG),” the two-term former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) government told Stabroek News this week.

“This course of action is therefore one where all our political parties are united and by extrapolation the Guyanese society. We must continue to remain this way while we await the outcome”, she added.

A statement issued on Tuesday by the spokesman for the UN Secretary-General noted that Guterres “has carefully analysed developments in 2017 in the good offices process and has concluded that significant progress has not been made toward arriving at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy. Accordingly, the Secretary-General has fulfilled the responsibility that has fallen to him within the framework set by his predecessor in December 2016, and has chosen the International Court of Justice as the means to be used for the solution of the controversy.”

Rodrigues-Birkett, who now works in Rome, Italy  for the Food and Agricul-ture Organisation (FAO), said the decision was very positive for Guyana and related how frustrating the years of futile talks has been for this country.

“It was after decades of the Good Officer’s Process without any solution in sight and serious review and introspection, that President Donald Ramotar decided that there must be another way, and on September 26th, 2014, together with DG (Director General) Elisabeth Harper, I met with then Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to request that the matter be referred to the ICJ as provided for in the Geneva Agreement,” she said.

“To be clear, the Arbitral Award of 1899 definitively settled our land border with Venezuela.  The claim by Venezuela, albeit more than six decades later that the Award is null and void, is what we want the ICJ to pronounce on. In other words, is the Arbitral Award of 1899 that definitively settled our land border with Venezuela null and void?  This will answer the vexing question that has plagued our young nation from the eve of our Independence to present and contributed to stultifying our development,” she added.

In a statement on Wed-nesday, the Venezuelan government criticized the action of the UNSG and his predecessor Ban Ki-moon.

It was Ban who in a December 15, 2016 communique directed that the matter be sent to the ICJ if the Good Offices process for the controversy yielded no substantial results by the end of 2017.  Accord-ing to Venezuela the criteria contained in that communique exceeded the powers granted to its investiture, contravening the spirit, purpose and reason of the Geneva Agreement.