Not a blade of grass
This week, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres referred the Guyana/Venezuela Border Controversy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as a means of arriving at a final and binding judicial settlement.This referral, though long overdue, comes at a time when Guyana has decided to intensify its exploration for more offshore natural resources, after already discovering a significant amount of commercial oil and gas resources earlier this year.The Secretary General’s decision also comes at a time when the Guyana Government is faced with a host of domestic problems, ranging from massive corruption scandals, the unilateral and controversial appointment of the Chairman of its premiere electoral body, allegations about misappropriation of funds, to the mass dismissal of thousands of poor and ordinary sugar workers from the rural economy.The referral has been announced while Venezuela is itself also facing immense hardships, food shortages, economic recession brought about by falling oil prices, and poor economic policy oversight by the Venezuelan Government.That country is also politically divided, with developed nations imposing sanctions on the Government of President Nicholás Maduro, and the people themselves in certain cases, because of an uprooting of democratic norms and practices by Maduro with the aim of holding on to power.All of the abovementioned domestic crises being faced by both countries will now be placed on the backburner, as the referral takes precedence because of what is at stake. The truth is: Guyana is in a far better place than Venezuela in emerging from this entire controversy as the top dog and rightful victor.But the Government must guard against complacency. It must ensure that it properly prepares for the upcoming case at the ICJ by not only recruiting a good team of international lawyers, but lawyers who have our vested interest at heart and cannot be compromised.It also is important for the Foreign Affairs Ministry to ensure that it has the financial, technical and clerical resources to lend assistance to the team in its bid to defend this country’s territorial sovereignty aptly at the level of the ICJ.Until such time the case is scheduled to be heard, the Opposition, too, must rally around the Government on this particular matter. They should have joint meetings and exchanges to discuss methodologies and Guyana’s entire judicial approach to the controversy. The country’s Attorney General must also give way to brighter and more experienced local talent if we are to ensure that there are no lapses, missed deadlines, and sabotage at any level.This case is of paramount importance, and Guyana’s future depends heavily on its outcome. For too long, Venezuela’s outrageous claim that the award was null and void has hung over the people of this country like a dark cloud. There will, no doubt, be attempts by Caracas to downplay the importance of the UN Secretary General, and there will likely be politicians from both sides of the divide that will campaign heavily on the controversy in that country’s April Presidential elections.But Georgetown must stand her ground and remain resolute. Citizens must also demonstrate pride in being Guyanese, as they express their full support and confidence in the Government’s ability to weather the storms ahead in order to re-secure Guyana’s patrimony, oil wealth, and people in the mighty Essequibo region. As Dave Martins and the Trade Winds dubbed it in their hit song, “We ain’t giving up no mountains, we ain’t giving up no river that belongs to we…not one rice grain…not a blade of grass”.