President Granger on territorial integrity… Teach ‘em from young –to put country before self
PRESIDENT David Granger is all for educating the nation about the importance of safeguarding one’s territorial integrity. As a matter of fact, he believes that, starting with the children, all Guyanese should be conversant with the Guyana-Venezuela and Guyana-Suriname border controversies.
“I do feel that it is necessary to have in our entire education system a better teaching of our history and geography,” he says.
“And I think that in so doing, there would be better understanding of the need to protect our territory, and to resist attempts by other countries to take over our country,” he told the Guyana Chronicle on Saturday.
Ideally, he would like the history of border claims and conflicts to be taught in schools. “Yes! I believe it should be taught in schools, not to create enemies, but to engender love for our country,” President Granger said.
Over the past few weeks, both neighbouring Venezuela and Suriname have taken it upon themselves to revive age-old claims to Guyana.
In the case of Venezuela, the resurgence stemmed from US oil giant ExxonMobil announcing out of the blue, just before the May 11 general and regional elections here, that it had found a significant amount of oil offshore Guyana.
In the circumstance, Guyana lobbied the support of the international community, which resulted in a UN-led investigative team meeting with both Guyana and Venezuela in the hope of resolving the controversy once and for all.
Suriname, on the other hand, in a fit of jealousy perhaps, took up the cudgel shortly after Venezuela did, with the announcement by none other than President Desire Bouterse himself that they had not entirely forgotten the New River Triangle claim; that it was still very much alive and back on their agenda.
LOVE OF COUNTRY
It is with the foregoing in mind that President Granger is convinced that having a deeper understanding and appreciation for Guyana’s history and geography would see citizens developing a love for country.
“Guyana is a beautiful country,” he said. “I would like people to be able to grow up with love for the country.”
With both controversies pre-dating independence, President Granger said, it’s no wonder that the younger generation are unaware of the difficulties Guyana faced in the last fifty years or so.
“The harassment; the loss of investment; and the fact that we had to expend our limited resources to protect our national interest,” he said, “must be understood and appreciated by each and every citizen.”
He said that were Guyanese better informed of the issues pertinent to the controversies and illegal claims by both Venezuela and Suriname, “the foreign persons who claim our territory would be less inclined to continue their campaign against Guyana.”
Noting that the best defence Guyana can ever hope for against threats to its territorial integrity is a people united, President Granger said:
“People are not aware of the Rupununi Rebellion. An attempt was made to take over almost 57,000 square kilometres in 1969… The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) had to come to the rescue of the nation. Similarly, the same year, in August, an attempt was made to take over 15,000 square kilometres.”
And while he agrees that persons indeed need to be more patriotic, he believes that it is equally important that they are aware intellectually of what obtains. “Guyanese need to be aware intellectually of what occurred,” he said, so that, emotionally, they would be more committed to ensuring that the territory which we inherited from our fore parents is intact.
“It is more than patriotism: It is self-interest; it is protecting our patrimony. I think better can be done. There is evidence that some people don’t understand the conflicts, and don’t understand why Suriname and Venezuela are so persistent,” President Granger said.
By Ariana Gordon