Letter to the Editor: Where does Guyana stand if SG does not make a decision regarding Guyana/Venezuela border controversy?

Dear Editor:

“Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, yesterday declared “I have to make an assessment by November” on the way forward with regard to the Venezuela border controversy with Guyana. This quote is taken from an article in last Sunday’s edition of Kaieteur News newspaper which had as its headline Guyana/Venezuela Controversy-Decision in November, UN Chief.

I am a bit confused by that headline since the Secretary General said ” I have to make an assessment”. He did not say a decision. If an assessment on the way forward is in fact, or turns out to be a decision to, or not to refer this matter to the International Court of Justice, then the Secretary General would have fulfilled his responsibility. However, as I indicated in an earlier letter I don’t expect the SG to rule on this matter prior to leaving office in December. So what will it mean for Guyana if there is no clear decision by the current SG? 
Before I attempt an answer to my own question I should point out that, based on an English translation of the speech by Venezuela at the recent UN General Assembly, I see no reference in that speech to the controversy with Guyana. The omission of any reference to the controversy in the Venezuelan UN speech must be examined from a public communication/public diplomacy perspective as Guyana seeks to have this matter solved via judicial settlement. The absence of reference to the controversy must be seen as a strategy on the part of Venezuela to give the SG some comfort. It sends a signal to the international community that one of the parties to the controversy, and in this case the “aggrieved ” party, is in no hurry to have the SG act and that it is quite “reasonable” for him to have this issue passed on to his successor.
Guyana has been pushing through various channels in as dignified and diplomatically correct a way as possible to have Ban Ki moon make a decision before leaving office….utilizing bilateral and multilateral meetings, speeches etc. However, in my view (and I have expressed this view many times in the past) our failure has been in employing an effective public diplomacy/outreach campaign designed to “pressure” the SG into making a decision. To use Guyanese parlance “boat gone a falls” in terms of using such a strategy to have Ban Ki moon make a decision before he leaves office. But we must embark now on this public diplomacy campaign so that his successor will be “obliged” to recognize that  while Venezuela might not be urging resolution of its own claim, and while the international community may not be crying out for an end to this controversy, public opinion wants a resolution of this controversy so that a small, developing country could push ahead uninhibited with its development plans including oil production in the area claimed by Venezuela.
To be able to have public opinion demonstrate its desire for the resolution of this matter and to influence a new SG accordingly, we need to have influential media in small and big countries devote attention to this issue ultimately having editorials and columns written in favor of this matter being referred urgently to the international court; having reputable electronic media including radio and television air news and opinion pieces with documentary evidence as to how this controversy is thwarting investment in Guyana and negatively impacting our economic development; having international human rights, religious, indigenous peoples and other relevant organizations issue statements pointing to the need for resolution of the issue so that the people of Guyana, especially the poor, could aspire to a better quality of life.
If we are really serious about having a judicial settlement of the Venezuela claim, and I have no doubt we have, we should embark on such a campaign now as a matter of urgent national importance so as to have this referral to the world court early in the new SG’s tenure. It must be made to become an important issue on his/her agenda on the assumption of office.
And if, God forbid, a man becomes the next president of the United States, who knows what support Maduro might get from a like minded incompetent, and how he might be emboldened if not empowered to act in violation of international law. This is no joke.

Wesley Kirton
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