In his recent interview on Venezuela, former president Mr. Bharrat Jagdeo spoke about his administration’s approach to resolving the border controversy between Guyana and Venezuela. He said that the PPP administration had considered five options for resolving it but he mentioned only one, namely, an outlet to the Atlantic for Venezuela.
Mr. Jadgeo questioned the ‘juridical’ route being proposed by the government on the ground that it may not materialize because of the need for Venezuela’s consent. In addition, he warned that if the parties accepted a judicial solution, the involvement of the United Nations in the process might somehow be impaired. He urged that Guyana ought not to take a position that would have such a consequence because it was vital, in his view, that the Secretary General should remain involved in the process. “I am not questioning the juridical route, I am just saying that it is very important to keep the UN involved in the process,” he advised. This was repeated several times in the interview. But Mr. Jagdeo never mentioned, contrary to the dangers he now perceives and to his current advice, that he proposed to President Chavez as far back as July 21, 2010, at their meeting in Caracas that serious consideration should be given to having the controversy resolved legally through the International Court of Justice(“ICJ”).
During last week former president Donald Ramotar also gave an interview to the Stabroek News. He said that his government had rejected a channel through ‘Guyana’s Atlantic waters’ as a means of settling the border controversy with Venezuela and that Mr. Jagdeo ought not to have voiced that option. This seems to have irked him because he suggested that Mr. Jagdeo should have ‘shut up,’ language that betrays the continuing tension in the PPP leadership. There was some continuity between the two governments. Mr. Jagdeo’s government considered the Atlantic outlet but made no decision, while Mr. Ramotar’s government considered and rejected it.
Mr. Ramotar said that because the Good Officer Process was not successful in resolving the matter, the government was looking at the other options that were available, including the judicial option, and was considering an approach to the UN Secretary General. In March this year Dr. Roger Luncheon revealed the nature of the intended approach when he revealed that the government was considering the judicial option. These statements seem to suggest that President Ramotar was unaware of the Jagdeo proposal to Chavez – very puzzling indeed!
President Jagdeo could not have taken any legal or other appropriate advice before making the proposal. It appears as if he has not taken any since. If so he would have known that Venezuela’s concurrence was not needed and that the UN Secretary General could refer the matter to the ICJ of his own motion under the Geneva Agreement. (See “Ban Ki-Moon has the last word” SN on 25 /10/15).
Several questions arise. Did Mr. Jagdeo recognize the danger he now warns about when he made the proposal to Chavez? If so why did he make it? Would this not be considered to be reckless, going into a situation with eyes closed, floundering into the darkness? Or did he seek advice and had some plan to overcome it, which he does not wish to disclose?
Why was Mr. Jagdeo economical with the facts to the Guyanese people? Why did he not tell us that he had made the proposal for a judicial settlement to President Chavez? Why did Mr. Jagdeo reveal his position on the outlet to the Atlantic but conceal his proposal for a judicial settlement to President Chavez? How come he did not consult with the Opposition in 2010 on this matter of fundamental national importance? How is it possible that the Ramotar government did not know about the proposal? If it did, what explanation is there for the Head of the Presidential Secretariat informing the Guyanese people in early 2015 that the judicial settlement was only then being considered by the PPP?
I would prefer not to repeat the inelegant suggestion of Mr. Ramotar but to recommend instead that Mr. Jagdeo should do some serious introspection before he speaks again, because his credibility on the vital national issue of the Guyana Venezuela Border Controversy, aggravated by his apparent lack of understanding of the Geneva Agreement, is now at stake. As for Mr. Ramotar, some explanation is needed as to whether he knew of the Jagdeo proposal. If he knew why did his government not reveal it but gave the impression that it was only now considering it?
The above questions will always arise when matters, especially those of national importance, are treated with stealth and secrecy. This is necessary in some cases, but the Jagdeo proposal to Chavez is not one of them. Even though I was the Guyana Facilitator to the Good Officer Process, I was unaware of Mr. Jagdeo’s proposal to President Chavez at the time and for some time after. From about 2006 to the end of the Ramotar administration in May 2015 I was, not of my own volition, not part of the advisory process relating to the Guyana Venezuela Border Controversy.