(GuyanaChronicle)THOUSANDS of Guyanese flooded the social media platforms with patriotic messages defending Guyana’s territorial integrity on the days after October 3, which marked the 123rd Anniversary of the Arbitral Award that settled the land boundary between British Guiana, now Guyana, and Venezuela.
Brandishing the slogan “All of it belongs to all of us”, Guyanese social media users across the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp platforms showed solidarity by spreading the #OneGuyana image showing a topographically-correct image of the country first released by President Dr. Irfaan Ali.
A few charges were extracted from the comment sections of social media accounts of senior government officials. “We are together in this… for our beautiful Guyana,” wrote Rahul Abdool Kadir. “Guyanese people must protect and take care of what is theirs. One Guyana. One Love,” commented Bibi Haniff.
“Not one rice grain unless they’re buying it,” quipped Simone Mackintosh. Another social media user, Holly Klass, called for divine protection: “God bless us as a nation… Guyana is we own [sic] and we can [and] must and will stand up for what is ours.”
After years of passive and active aggression from Venezuela, Guyana, acting on the guidance of the chief of the United Nations, approached The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Netherlands to have the controversy settled, and to declare the 1899 Arbitral Award valid and binding.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, in a document published on its official website which detailed the process to this point, said: “On 30 January, 2018, the United Nations Secretary-General, His Excellency António Guterres, pursuant to his mandate under the Geneva Agreement of 1966, chose the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as the means of settlement of the controversy.
“Guyana, thereafter, on 29 March, 2018 filed its Application with the ICJ, requesting the Court to adjudge and declare, inter alia, that the 1899 Arbitral Award is valid and binding upon both Guyana and Venezuela.”
In June 2018, Venezuela communicated to the Court that it would not participate in the case, despite continuing to question the legitimacy of the Award, and even criticising Guyana publicly.
Venezuela had mischievously maintained that the International Court of Justice, although empowered by international law to deal with such matters, had no jurisdiction.
The ICJ went on to examine the question of jurisdiction. “The Court considered, pursuant to Article 79, paragraph 2, of its Rules, that, in the circumstances of the case, it must resolve first of all the questions of the Court’s jurisdiction, and that this question should accordingly be separately determined before any proceedings on the merit,” the MoFA document said on the subject. Guyana and Venezuela were invited to submit their positions.
“On 19 November, 2018, in accordance with the ICJ’s time-table, Guyana submitted to the Court its Memorial on Jurisdiction. The Court had established 18 April 2019 for the submission of a Counter-Memorial by Venezuela. However, that date passed with no response from Venezuela.
“It later sent to the Court a Memorandum – ‘to assist the Court’,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry recounted.
The question of the ICJ’s jurisdiction was decided on December 18, 2020. The Court ruled, in a judgement published on its official website, that it “has jurisdiction to entertain Guyana’s claims concerning the validity of the 1899 Award about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela and related question of the definitive settlement of the dispute regarding the land boundary between the territories of the Parties.”
After a case management meeting, the ICJ issued Order No. 171 dated March 8, 2021 which set time-limits for Guyana and Venezuela to file written pleadings on the merits of the case. Guyana met its March 8, 2022 deadline to submit its Memorial on the Merits of its case to the Court. Venezuela, on the other hand, will now have until March 8, 2023 to submit its Counter Memorial.
For the 123rd anniversary of the 1899 award, the Guyana government, through the Foreign Affairs Ministry, said: “we celebrate the rule of international law and the sanctity of Treaties. We celebrate that our quest for justice has led us to the hallowed halls of the International Court of Justice.
“Guyana is optimistic that the Court will decide the case in its favour, and that the validity of the Arbitral Award and the boundary will be upheld.”
As recently as October 4, the United States government reaffirmed the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award, and solidified its support for a “peaceful resolution” to the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy through the proper court, if there is any deviation from that Award.
“The 1899 arbitral award determined the land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela and should be respected unless or until otherwise determined by a competent legal body. The U.S. supports a peaceful resolution to this issue,” Ambassador Brian Nichols, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the State Department, wrote on Twitter.