We can't let Venezuela and Suriname impede our economic development
Stabroek News
February 14, 2002

Dear Editor,

Over the past six months as I rush to read the news of Guyana's two major dailies on the internet, I am struck by the volume of "Quality of Life Issues". Police shootings, Boom Box nuisance, Mini Bus strikes, Protests, Pot Holes, Broken Bridges etc. With a few exceptions most of these issues would correct themselves if we as a nation shift focus to an issue that makes the others minuscule, and that is the border issue. We are aware that oil revenues would mask and or eliminate many of the social ills we currently complain about, therefore, it is in the best interest of the nation that the border issue is brought to the forefront more prominently and a permanent solution found.

The Racial Divide.
Because we as a people continuously exhibit the intolerance for our own Guyanese of a different race, we are perceived as weak. We exert much energy differing with each other based only on race and fail to look at the larger picture. We should see that we are in this "boat of poverty" together, and the insidious racial bickering does give fodder to others that we are fragmented and as a consequence, will never come together to defend that which is ours. In the meantime, external political and economic irritants are applied to our domestic equation and keep us from achieving real prosperity. Suriname and Venezuela do not view us as Black, Indian, Amerindian, Chinese or other. They see us as Guyanese, a people so divided that we fail to see the possibilities of growth, we fail to unite and agree to a national agenda, instead we have a myopic view of race. Both Suriname and Venezuela have cupped the opportunity to apply the pressure as long as we continue the public dislike and non support of each other's efforts. Until there is a national paradigm shift, they will continue to use their claim to our territory as a disruptive mechanism to hinder our national economic, social and political growth.

The Guyana government feels that negotiations are the best path to finding a solution for this stalemate. However, we should have contingency plans if this effort fails to achieve the expected results. It is imperative that the message is conveyed that a continuation of this stalemate is not in our best interest especially when these resources and land within are ours.

Some have called for the Guyana government to appeal to the international community to have the issue resolved. But to date, the international community, who are aware of the pending disagreement, have offered no solution. The international community have acted as though this problem does not exist, even though Guyana has raised the issue on numerous occasions. It is to be expected that no solution will be forthcoming when we have been friendly and neighborly. The onus is on us, as a nation, to find a solution whether it calls for an overly aggressive action or not. It is our nation that is being threatened, when we are told that we cannot use the resources that are within our boundaries. There is no other sovereign nation that is under the restrictions we are. Others have taken up arms for less and have not exhibited the tolerance we have. It is self defeating to sit back and hope that others will find a solution for our problems.

The vice-like grip that is applied to Guyana by Suriname and Venezuela supports the argument that their actions are to protect against Guyana draining their oil reserves. If there is any credence to such theory why should we pay the price for our strategic position by negotiating shared exploration benefits when we have never shared in any of their ventures? Why should we continue to be held under duress with no real solution in sight?

Prepare to defend the nation
In the back of our collective minds we know what the solution to the issue is but we are afraid to express those thoughts. We however, must prepare for such eventuality. This border issue will not go away if we as a nation continue to exhibit a fragmented posture. Any negotiation will result in us "giving away the store" if we continue to be divided as a nation. All of the opposition parties must support the government with a united front. Guyana should not negotiate with the hope that both Suriname and Venezuela will cease to demand a piece of Guyana owing to the goodwill of neighbors. This issue has become too pronounced within each country's political sphere for them to cease their demands. Each country's government expects political mileage from their efforts. Therefore, Guyana should go ahead and invite those oil concerns back and provide a military escort as needed. The problem is the investing concerns may not see a military escort proposal as a comfortable alternative, and we will continue to be looked upon as an easy target, a people that are too weak and divided to mount any resistance. This weakness was manifested by Suriname sending a few men in a boat to disperse Guyana's oil exploration effort without any appropriate "in kind" response.

For too long we have been passive, hoping that the border issue will correct itself. To date, we have seen that such thoughts are a figment of our imagination. How long do we sit back and allow the nation's resources to lie dormant?
Guyana must start building a more adequate defense force. All youth age eighteen or older should be given military training. We must start being more aggressive and prepare for the defense of what is rightfully ours.

Yours faithfully,
Patrick Barker