Addressing about 700 soldiers, including senior officers, who marched from Better Hope, East Coast Demerara and Providence, East Bank Demerara, he said “Today nations arm themselves for peace, not for war.”
His remark came one day after former Commander-in-Chief and President, Bharrat Jagdeo expressed concern about a display of weapons amid Venezuela’s deployment of troops, missiles and gunboats on the border with Guyana. “One thing we must not do, though, we must never allow Venezuela to argue that we are a belligerent nation and so the signals that we send-while we have to br ready and we all have to collectively defend our country from whatever external threat we face-that if we start sending images across the world of troops carrying guns then we undermine the strength of small countries which is multilateralism and not going to war,” said Jagdeo who was President from 1999 to 2011.
The Chief of Staff justified the presence of Guyanese soldiers on the border, saying that was necessary to define aggression and defend Guyana as part of a long-term development plan.
“We are defending Guyana, we defining aggression on our frontier id because we want to have peace in our country so that we could develop our country and we can take our place as a great nation among the many nations of the world,” he said.
He expressed confidence that Commander-in-Chief, President David Granger’s engagements at the United Nations General Assembly being held in New York would lead to a peaceful settlement of the border controversy with Venezuela. Phillips also hoped that Guyana would be able to convert from a poor to a rich country and exploit its resources for the benefit of all Guyanese.
The four-month long spike in tensions between the two countries followed the announcement by Exxon-Mobil that it had found a huge deposit offshore Essequibo. Venezuela almost immediately responded by unilaterally including waters off Essequibo as hers.
Venezuela has since suspended the process for the accreditation of Cheryl Miles as Guyana’s Ambassador to Caracas and deployed its forces near the border and in the Cuyuni River which Guyana says is part of its territory.
Granger and Venezuela’s President, Nicolas Maduro are expected to meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to further explore Guyana’s desire for the border controversy to be sent to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for final determination.
Guyana maintains that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that settled the border with Venezuela is a full, final and perfect settlement.