“Guyana, at the moment, is facing a challenge to its survival by a larger State. The present threat, if not resolved promptly, if not resolved permanently, if not resolved peacefully could lead to a deterioration of the security situation in the entire Caribbean and on the northern tier of the South American continent,” he said.
Guyana has already decided to opt out of the United Nations mediation process after more than 20 years and go the route of judicial settlement of the controversy at the World Court. Guyana has also told the 15-nation Caribbean Community that several island nations, Suriname and French Guiana have been negatively impacted by Venezuela’s creation of integral maritime defence zones without regard to international law.
Addressing the 2015 graduation ceremony at the Perry Center of the United States Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies (CHDS) in Washington DC; he said the threat to its land and maritime zone was neither sudden nor minor but has persisted for about 50 years.
During that period, the Guyanese leader again lamented the economic sabotage to by its western neighbour, in apparent reference to efforts to search for oil and the development of hydro power stations in the Essequibo Region which is about two-thirds of Guyana’s 83,000 square miles.
“Investors have been intimidated, investments have been derailed, and projects have been obstructed. This is too much for ear for a country with fewer than a million people,” he told the graduates in Caribbean Defence and Security at Fort Lesley J. McNair.
In apparent reference to Venezuela’s navy chasing out a seismic research vessel, Teknik Perdana, from an offshore concession that was granted by Guyana, President Granger said the era of gunboat diplomacy in the Caribbean has come to an end.
Pledging Guyana’s commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes based on international law and the inviolability of international agreements, he said small and large States must coexist peacefully here in the Caribbean and elsewhere- a choice that countries like his must makes. “The small States must choose in the context of those limitations whether to spend its money on rice or rifles, on guns or butter,” he said.
The President observed that the majority of students come from small states that face threats
A former Commander of the Guyana Defence Force, President Granger is also an alumnus and former adjunct professor of the Perry Center who was inaugurated as Guyana’s President on May 16, 2015.
Granger remarked that the experience he has acquired as a student and staff member at that institution has helped prepare him to become a regional leader, rekindled his interest in hemispheric defence and strengthened his understanding of the security of small States.
Guyana’s resolve to seek to bring an end to the controversy over the settlement of the land boundary by the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award was brought to a head in the last two months after Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro issued two decrees- one of them has since been scrapped- purportedly extending his country’s maritime boundary to take in all of the Atlantic sea off the Essequibo Region including an area where a major oil deposit has been found.
Maduro’s move followed an announcement by the United States oil giant, ExxonMobil, that it found a “significant” deposit of high quality crude oil.