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Venezuela’s aggression steeled this nation and made us more hardened and more experienced to take on the challenges of national development, and skillful at honing the available diplomatic and national security instruments for the survival of the nation. This opportunity is taken to record our appreciation of all those who played a role in laying the foundation and developing a diplomatic and national security framework to protect our interest and our sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Economic aggression has become an art form and Caracas has quashed such ventures as the Beale Deal and aggressively opposed the sale of oil blocks, and threatened oil companies who are legitimately exploiting our Petroleum resources in our maritime space. But as Mr. Hope had warned we will have to devote our energies towards defending our nation and preventing a disruption of our developmental process.
It was recognised that after approximately twenty-six years, despite the excellent efforts of the Good Officers and the Facilitators, and the Enhanced Good officers Process, no solution had been found to the Territorial Controversy which has been a bugbear to our national development. In the circumstances there was no other sensible option than to request the UN Secretary General to refer the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The nation knows that the UNSG acceded to this request and the matter is now before the world court.
Venezuela does not honour international agreements solemnly arrived at. I add to this its disregard for international institutions. Having agreed to the referral of the Territorial Controversy to the ICJ, it embarked on its obstructive tactics.
We have arrived at the point where Venezuela, through the device of a Referendum, is seeking to make a naked attempt to annex the Essequibo. This is a dangerous moment in our history. We must be united in the face of this new phase of its aggression. I do not think this will be an aggression as in the past. President Maduro is in the coils of sharp economic problems which have led to the exodus of thousands of his citizens, the precipitous decline of his economy and the unpopularity of his government.
This Referendum and the mobilising of troops on our border by the Maduro administration is an attempt to regain popularity and appease a volatile people, and end the apparent erosion among his political bases. This is a dangerous game.
What happens if Maduro gets the “Yes” vote which he and his top officials are campaigning for? What does he do before or after he wins the elections next year? He might decide to take direct military action using a potential fifth column in our midst.
Whatever happens in this neighbouring state we must be prepared. This opportunity must be taken to condemn the attempt by Venezuela to withdraw from the judicial process under the guise of a referendum. The peaceful settlement of the Controversy demands the Venezuela adhere to international law and mores. Permit me to also register our support for the decision to approach the ICJ for provisional measures against the convening of that sinister referendum.
A central theme in the narrative I just outlined is the unity Guyana has shown over the years. That unity has often been expressed in Parliamentary Committees. And it may be right and appropriate to single out those Guyanese who supported this nation at critical moments of its history by serving on those Committees. I refer to such men as Boysie Ramkarran, Marcellus Fielden Singh, our own Cammie Ramsaroop, among others. I am also not above praising the PPP for steadfast but sometimes qualified support on the Border Controversy. On this we have done well as a nation.
Now we must summon the will and steel ourselves for yet another challenge from Venezuela.
Excerpt from Leader of the Opposition Aubrey Norton’s contribution to the Extraordinary Sitting of the National Assembly. Nov. 6, 2023