Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley has re­turned to work and has im­me­di­ate­ly ad­dressed re­gion­al is­sues, in­clud­ing de­fend­ing Guyana against Venezuela on a land is­sue, as chair­man of Cari­com.

Yes­ter­day was his first day of du­ties fol­low­ing car­diac prob­lems and an­gio­plas­ty over the week­end.

Cari­com un­der his chair­man­ship took is­sue with Venezuela’s po­si­tion against Guyana on a mar­itime bor­der is­sue.

Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Nico­las Maduro’s so­cial­ist ad­min­is­tra­tion has set alarm bells ring­ing by re­ject­ing a re­cent ju­ris­dic­tion­al rul­ing by the In­ter­na­tion­al Court of Jus­tice (ICJ) con­cern­ing his coun­try’s ter­ri­to­r­i­al claims over oil-rich neigh­bour Guyana.

Maduro is­sued a new de­cree last week claim­ing sov­er­eign­ty over ar­eas claimed by Guyana, while Venezuela’s na­tion­al as­sem­bly es­tab­lished a spe­cial com­mit­tee for the de­fence of dis­put­ed ter­ri­to­ry.

The claim cov­ers more than half of Guyana’s land mass and much of Guyana’s At­lantic mar­itime ter­ri­to­ry, in­clud­ing most of the pro­lif­ic Exxon­Mo­bil-op­er­at­ed Stabroek block, where a raft of huge oil dis­cov­er­ies have been un­earthed in re­cent years.

Guyana’s mod­ern ar­gu­ment for ICJ ju­ris­dic­tion was based on the 1966 Gene­va Agree­ment — signed by the UK, Venezuela and colo­nial British Guiana — which stip­u­lates that the par­ties will agree to find a prac­ti­cal, peace­ful and sat­is­fac­to­ry so­lu­tion to the dis­pute.

Guyana has ar­gued, suc­cess­ful­ly, that the Gene­va Agree­ment al­so es­tab­lish­es ju­ris­dic­tion for an ICJ rul­ing, and diplo­mats now ex­pect that rul­ing to come with­in a time­frame of two to four years.

Anx­ious to stave off un­rest in a coun­try where liv­ing stan­dards have plum­met­ed, Maduro has seized on the ju­ris­dic­tion­al rul­ing in an at­tempt to gal­vanise pop­u­lar sup­port.

“It is ours! It be­longs to the Venezue­lans and we are go­ing to re­take it in peace and with na­tion­al uni­ty,” Maduro said of the Es­se­qui­bo ter­ri­to­ries.

Guyana’s Pres­i­dent Ir­faan Ali called Maduro’s ac­tions and words “deeply dis­turb­ing” and ar­gued that any at­tempt to “uni­lat­er­al­ly” fix bound­aries be­tween the two coun­tries would be a le­gal nul­li­ty in the eyes of in­ter­na­tion­al law.

The Cari­com state­ment said the com­mu­ni­ty was deeply dis­ap­point­ed and con­cerned “at the de­cree and sub­se­quent state­ments by Venezuela with re­spect to that coun­try’s bor­der con­tro­ver­sy with Guyana, in­clud­ing in­ti­ma­tions of the cre­ation of a strate­gic area of na­tion­al de­vel­op­ment called ‘Ter­ri­to­ry for the De­vel­op­ment of the At­lantic Façade’”.

It said Cari­com was “in full sup­port of the ju­di­cial process un­der­way at the In­ter­na­tion­al Court of Jus­tice (ICJ) which is in­tend­ed to bring a peace­ful and de­fin­i­tive end to the long-stand­ing con­tro­ver­sy be­tween the two coun­tries.

“CARI­COM re­it­er­ates in the strongest pos­si­ble terms, its firm and unswerv­ing sup­port for the main­te­nance and preser­va­tion of the sov­er­eigni­ty and ter­ri­to­r­i­al in­tegri­ty of Guyana. CARI­COM firm­ly re­pu­di­ates any acts of ag­gres­sion by Venezuela against Guyana.”

Browne said it was a “strong, very time­ly state­ment of sol­i­dar­i­ty which is ful­ly con­sis­tent with the es­tab­lished Cari­com po­si­tion on how the bor­der dis­pute should be prop­er­ly treat­ed and re­solved at the ICJ.”

“As chair of this spe­cial emer­gency meet­ing, the Prime Min­is­ter led the draft­ing and fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the state­ment as one of his first of­fi­cial func­tions as cur­rent Cari­com chair­man,” Browne added.

Cana­da has al­so ex­pressed con­cern over Venezuela’s claim.

In a state­ment, Ot­tawa said “Venezuela’s re­cent claim that it has sov­er­eign­ty over the area ad­ja­cent to Guyana’s Es­se­qui­bo coast is con­cern­ing. The de­ci­sion is in the hands of the In­ter­na­tion­al Court of Jus­tice and this ju­di­cial process must be re­spect­ed.”

The Unit­ed States on Sun­day al­so weighed in on the mat­ter. It de­clared sup­port for the In­ter­na­tion­al Court of Jus­tice’s (ICJ) rul­ing that it has ju­ris­dic­tion to hear Guyana’s case for a ju­ridi­cal set­tle­ment of the long-run­ning bor­der con­tro­ver­sy with Venezuela.

Deal­ing with Venezuela is among sev­er­al is­sues that re­main on Cari­com’s agen­da.

Trinidad and To­ba­go did not vote at a re­cent meet­ing of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion of Amer­i­can States (OAS) which con­demned the re­cent Venezue­lan elec­tions.

Re­cent­ly Ja­maica’s Op­po­si­tion took its gov­ern­ment to task for par­tic­i­pat­ing in the OAS vote. That Op­po­si­tion called on Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness to ex­plain the break­ing of re­spect­ed tra­di­tions at the OAS Coun­cil.

It was deemed a re­ver­sal of Ja­maica’s long­stand­ing for­eign pol­i­cy com­mit­ments which broke Ja­maica’s im­age re­gion­al­ly and in­ter­na­tion­al­ly.

Ja­maica’s Op­po­si­tion stat­ed han­dling of the cir­cum­stances be­tween T&T and Venezuela was dis­turb­ing and Ja­maica, which chaired the OAS Coun­cil, could have han­dled the sit­u­a­tion more re­spon­si­bly.

Their Op­po­si­tion said Ja­maica and two oth­er states, “ir­re­spon­si­bly and in an un­prece­dent­ed” way al­lowed Venezue­lan Op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers to at­tack T&T’s Gov­ern­ment and oth­er Cari­com states.

Ja­maica’s Op­po­si­tion said their Gov­ern­ment had for­feit­ed Ja­maica’s role as a fair hon­est bro­ker and seemed in­tent on iso­lat­ing re­gion­al sis­ter na­tions which sought al­ter­na­tives to US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s agen­da and Venezuela’s cri­sis.

Source: Guardian T&T