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Guyana will “stoutly resist” Venezuela ID card distribution; Guyanese security expert recommends aggressive public awareness campaign

Professor Ivelaw Griffith.

Guyana on Sunday warned it would “stoutly resist” plans by Venezuela to register residents in Essequibo and issue them identification cards for the neighbouring Spanish-speaking nation, even as a United States-based Political Scientist has urged government to aggressively educate Guyanese about Venezuela’s territorial claim to the Essequibo Region.

“We will stoutly resist any effort to have our people issued with cards and things like that, and whatever we need to do as a nation to ensure that we are not distracted in any way from our path of development we are going to do it,” said Minister of State Joseph Harmon.

He did not provide any details.

The warning was issued on Antigua’s Nice Radio FM 104.3 by Harmon who is part of a two-member delegation on that Caribbean island to join the large Guyanese population there in celebrating ye coalition’s victory at the May 11, 2015 general and regional elections. The other member of the delegation is Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Winston Felix.

Head of Venezuela’s Office for the Rescue of the Essequibo Retired Army Col. Pompey Torrealba Rivero has announced that efforts would soon be made to issue Venezuelan Identification Cards to an estimated 200,000 persons born in Essequibo. He also disclosed that plans are afoot to embark on campaign to educate Guyanese that Venezuela belongs to Guyanese.

But Harmon said Guyana has already issued its nationals with identification cards and they have already elected representatives to the 65-seat National Assembly and the 10 Regional Administrative Councils, several of which- Regions 1,2,7,8 and 9- are part of Essequibo.

Political Science Professor, Ivelaw Griffith last recommended that the Guyana government engage in vibrant public diplomacy drive across the country to complement a defence diplomacy strategy. “It is important to complement that defence diplomacy with a public diplomacy…It is important in my view to have a campaign. Put all the relevant documents on one website, use Social Media..,” he said in delivering a lecture titled “Regime Change and Expectations Management: Crime and other Quotidian Security Challenges Facing Guyana.”

Griffith called on the Guyana government to tap into the wealth of expertise at home and abroad to build the credibility and competence of Guyana’s Defence Diplomacy. “You have got to call back some of those experts, you have got to tap into the Diaspora,” he said

He recommends public fora to be held across Guyana on the genesis, nature and status of Venezuela’s land and maritime boundary claims. “You got to go and explain to the people what it is all about. People have so many things competing for their attention that some of this is going to be over their heads,” he said.

Labeling Venezuela’s claim unjust, irrational and outrageous, Harmon said government has been engaged in a public awareness campaign to educate Guyanese about its western neighbour’s geographical and economic aggression against the small State of Guyana. “What we are doing is educating the Guyanese people at home that all of Guyana- 83,000 square miles, 216,000 square kilometers- belong to them and that the Essequibo is no different from Demerara or Berbice. It is one State and it is one country and therefore any effort or any attempt by anyone to violate the integrity of that State, as a nation we will have to stand up for it,” said the minister.

The Minister of State noted that since acceding to office the President has engaged in a regional and international crusade at the level of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), MERCOSUR and the United Nations on Guyana’s position on the border controversy.

None of what Professor Griffith has identified as elements of a public awareness campaign is knowingly being done by the Guyana government. However, the President David Granger-led administration has been engaged in an ongoing diplomatic campaign for Venezuela “to leave us alone” and allow Guyana to exploit its resource free of the threat of an invasion.

Guyana maintains that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award represents a full, final and perfect settlement of the land border controversy.

Since Venezuela’s unilateral extension of its maritime boundary to include the Atlantic waters off the Essequibo Region, Guyana has reiterated that the United Nations mediation process has not been working and that time has come to settle the controversy at the World Court.