The Consulate of Guyana in Toronto marked a significant moment by opening its doors for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. The occasion was graced by Honorary Consul Mani Singh, who hosted the event. This gathering brought together Guyanese nationals, well-wishers of the republic, and featured the presence of High Commissioner Mr. Keith George, alongside hundreds of Guyanese at the consulate’s location at 505 Consumers Road.
However, the festivities were quickly overshadowed by tragic news that reached the gathering. A helicopter crash in Guyana had resulted in the loss of five of the country’s top military personnel. The somber mood that descended over the event was reflected in the Guyanese flag flying at half-staff.
Honorary Consul Mani Singh addressed the audience, comprising members of Guyanese Diaspora organizations, fellow Guyanese, and invited guests. His speech began as the Yuletide Season approached, traditionally a time for exchanging wishes of peace and joy.
Following his remarks, High Commissioner Keith George addressed the community in his official capacity as the voice of Guyana in Canada. He acknowledged that this year, the usual sentiments of peace and joy during the holiday season had been marred by the harsh realities of the world. Ongoing conflicts in regions such as Africa, Myanmar, and Gaza served as stark reminders of the persistence of barbaric actions and thoughts within humanity. The conventional notion that peace meant merely the absence of war appeared irrelevant when such violence continued unabated.
The international community had borne witness to atrocities, such as the genocide in Gaza, broadcast live on television screens. This disturbing reality underscored that despite technological advancements, mankind’s capacity for destruction had not waned; in some ways, it had increased. The threat of using force, despite its prohibition in the United Nations Charter, remained a concerning reality.
Even in the traditionally peaceful Caribbean region, tensions were on the rise due to Venezuela’s disregard for international law. Venezuela’s threats and aggressive actions against Guyana posed a substantial threat to Caribbean peace, stability, and tranquility.
Guyana had sought justice through the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to resolve the dispute over the 1899 Arbitral Award that had established the land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela. However, Venezuela’s refusal to fully participate in the ICJ proceedings cast a shadow over international law and the court’s authority.
Venezuela’s actions have not only raised concerns among Guyanese but also among people in the Caribbean, Latin America, and across the globe. Canada had even issued an advisory to its citizens in response to the situation.
Venezuela’s reluctance to accept justice was rooted in its understanding that international boundary law mandated that once a boundary was agreed upon, it should remain stable. Venezuela had negotiated, accepted, and recognized the boundary with Guyana for decades before attempting to challenge it. International law obligated Venezuela to renounce the right to contest the established boundary.
Despite these legal realities, Venezuela had resorted to propaganda, threats, and illegal actions to pursue its objectives. It had falsely claimed that Guyana was acting aggressively, an assertion without basis, given Guyana’s smaller population and military capabilities compared to Venezuela’s.
Venezuela’s disingenuity extended to its interpretation of the Geneva Agreement of 1966, falsely asserting that it superseded the 1899 Arbitral Award. In reality, the agreement did not invalidate the award; instead, Venezuela was the one making new claims and acting contrary to its provisions.
High Commissioner George stressed that Guyana was exploiting oil deposits off the coast of Berbice, not the Essequibo, as falsely claimed by Venezuela. Dispelling these falsehoods was imperative to prevent inciting unrest among ordinary Venezuelans and military personnel.
In the face of these challenges, High Commissioner George called upon Guyanese and their friends to remain vigilant yet calm. He assured them that international law and the rule of law were on their side. Guyana remained committed to peace, economic growth, and addressing climate change while safeguarding its natural resources.
As the Christmas season approached, High Commissioner George encouraged everyone to maintain faith in themselves and each other, promoting peace and prosperity for Guyana and the broader region. He concluded by wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and urged them to carry the message of peace in their hearts.