By Article IV(1) of the Geneva Agreement of 1966, the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela committed to choosing one of the means of peaceful settlement provided for by article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations (UN), if the Mixed Commission did not arrive at a full agreement for the settlement of the controversy within four years. Judicial settlement was one of those means under article 33. But the part of the article providing for the parties to choose the means of settlement is qualified by Article V. It provides that they are to refer the decision of the means of settlement to an “appropriate international organ on which they both agree,” but failing agreement “to the Secretary General of the United Nations.”

After the conclusion of the mandate of the Mixed Commission, the Governments of Guyana, Venezuela and the United Kingdom entered into an agreement known as the Port of Spain Protocol in June, 1970, which suspended the operation of Article IV of the Geneva Agreement for twelve years. This meant effectively that the formal search under Article IV for a resolution of the controversy was suspended for the period. Guyana and Venezuela undertook to “explore all possibilities of better understanding between them.”

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As revealed by President Granger in his address to the National Assembly last Thursday, Venezuela has once again attempted to intimidate a foreign investor, the Guyana Goldfields. The President referred to Venezuela’s history of intimidation starting with the seizure of Ankoko in 1966, then the Rupununi Uprising in 1969, and its continuation since that time. The fact that the Good Officer Process has been ongoing for the past 25 years has not moderated Venezuela’s relentless energy in its irredentist pursuits, which the President has correctly characterized as unlawful interference in Guyana’s internal affairs.

Venezuela no doubt wishes the continuation of the same Good Officer process so that it will remain free to engage in its hostile activity towards Guyana. The ultimate objective of its economic and escalating military intimidation is to prevent Guyana from developing its economy and military so as to eventually force us in desperation to settle the border controversy by ceding territory.

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I return to the issue of mining on Amerindian lands because of the international dimension introduced by a letter to the Government from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD). The letter expressed concern over mining on Amerindian lands of the Isseneru and Kako communities and has asked the Government to review the granting of permits and concessions without obtaining the prior and informed consent of the affected indigenous communities.

The impression created by the letter is that the Government continues to grant mining permits and concessions without obtaining the prior and informed consent of affected Amerindian communities. The information on which formed the basis of UNCERD’s letter was provided by the Amerindian Peoples’ Association (APA) and the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP).

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