Derwayne

SOVEREIGNTY AT RISK; Population Dynamics, the 2012 Census

What does Guyana’s population dynamics mean for our sovereignty?

It seems to me that the concept of “sovereignty”- specifically Guyana’s sovereignty- has enjoyed some amount of media time. While we bicker amongst ourselves whether the United States foreign policy, and the actions of one western diplomat, who is no stranger to conspiracy and ‘feral blasts’, constituted a violation of sovereignty; we must examine the ongoing threat to sovereignty by our eastern neighbour Venezuela.

Food for thought: instead of preempting the outcome of upcoming elections based on the recently measured regional distribution of the population to determine ethnic voting basins; how about we exercise our grey matter and consider the following:

QUANTIFYING SOVEREIGNTY

By admission of some, sovereignty key concepts have slowly drifted into the realm of being an ideal rather than a realist approach of national defense, especially in this globalised world riddled of IMF, World Bank and US economic sanctions. Often felt for non-compliance at the domestic level, take for example the Anti Money Laundering and Countering of Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) and the Financial Task Force’s impending finger of doom to ‘blacklist’.

Coming on the heels of the 2012 Guyana Population & Housing Census Preliminary Report, I recalled numerous speculations and other aspersions on possible reasons that the population saw a marginal dunk from 752,000 in 2002 to 747,000 in 2012.

Of the variables measured in the census, undoubtedly, there is some preoccupation with ‘ethnic composition’ and the unmeritorious attribution to ‘migration’ as being the reason for the tank in the nation’s demography. Nonetheless, I won’t waste any more time on these small potatoes.

MI MAPA REVOLUCIÓN!

So much so, that Guyanese have only recently been made aware of a massive “Nuestra mapa de Venezuela incluye Esequibo” (Our map of Venezuela includes Essequibo) youth movement being played out on social media.

With a series of Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Apps, the movements has drawn close to 120,000 Venezuelan supporters. Most Guyanese are still blissfully unaware.

I recalled that when Guyana celebrated its 48th Independence, one clamorous Facebook advocate for the “nuestra mapa…” movement, made a post identify the true boundaries of Guyana. The gentleman had limited the territorial sovereignty of Guyana to Demerara and Berbice. All of Essequibo was deemed to be “Esequibo-Venezuela”.

Venezuelan students had planned symposia at local Universities and have even mustered support from other international citizens and groups.  Is Guyana fighting a battle of sovereignty that we are ill-informed is happening?

Venezuela's
Map of the Guiana shelf of South America showing Venezuela’s “la zona de reclamación” the reclamation zone of the entire Essequibo region. 

In my heart, I denounced the claim but as the 2012 census results rolled out, I am beginning to see truth in what the clamouring was all about. Examining Guyana’s population dynamics closely, undoubtedly, our political, economic, social and demographic high points are centralised to the coast.

Certainly for reasons that were based on the need for the colony to be located at the waterfront, our country had been set up in such a way.

POPULATION DYNAMICS

To what extent does a lack of demographic dispersal compromise sovereignty?  I look at that map and like a jigsaw puzzle, it eerily resembles one such presented in the 2012 Preliminary Census Report. A cause for concern maybe?

Capture

Map of Guyana showing Demerara and Berbice minus Essequibo. In the map Demerara and Berbice represent the majority of Guyana’s heavily centralised coastal population.

How does this reflect on the issue of demographics being an important guarantee for sovereignty?

Historically, Guyana’s relations with her Latin-American counterparts have been minimal to none. Waning heavily to the Caribbean region for reason of a shared social, political and economic history that was brought on through colonialist expansion, Guyana strategic location gives it the best of both worlds. Yet, it has only tapped into one.

What we are yet to learn is that land and territorial dispute is not alien to South America. Countries have fought for decades over territorial battles, often erupting into violent confrontations. For perspective: the recently concluded Peru-Chile maritime boundary dispute, and the Triple Frontier- border region of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil.

Google map depicting conflict zone of Triple Frontier- Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay
Google map depicting conflict zone of Triple Frontier- Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay

What Brazil has done, and continues to do, is to extend its citizenry into corners of disputed regions in an attempt to solidify its sovereignty. Should Guyana follow suit? According to the 2012 Preliminary census results, Guyana’s coastal region holds approximately 666,000 people, while the hinterland holds a meagre 81,623, in comparison.

Map showing hinterland section of Guyana with a densely populated scattered distribution of 81,000 people.
Map showing hinterland section of Guyana with a densely populated scattered distribution of 81,000 people.

What then does this say about Guyana’s sovereignty if we are to measure this variable by demographic distribution?

Would it reflect a highly centralised coastal region with reluctance to expand? Is it reflective of Guyana’s true boundaries being Demerara and Berbice?

Does Essequibo then rightfully belong to Venezuela because of said reluctance of the Guyana Government and citizens to expand?

In my estimation, Guyana abandoned the thrust for expansion some time ago. The most recalled and yet most tragic was the Jonestown fiasco. The Burnham administration welcomed Jim Jones and the People’s Temple settlement as an expansion into a region that is yet to be explored. History however recalls the horrific details that emerged from that venture.

We have since deserted any emphatic drive to expand our population into our physical reaches. Instead, we continue to exhaust our military resources to defend our regions.

Will this be resolved in the near or distant future? I certainly hope so. Considering Guyana’s slowly eroding relations with the Venezuelans and the Americans, we’re going to need a miracle.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Guyana (I speak of Guyana and not of the PPP or the PNC because sovereignty is a national issue) has long fought the good fight to defend her territorial insularity against the lustful eyes of her neighbour. You wouldn’t want your neighbour taking in part of your drain as their own- without your consent-  would you?

Flashback to 1966, Burnham’s People’s National Congress governing coalition with Peter D’Aguiar’s United Force find themselves in quite the pickle with reports that Venezuelans have allegedly settled on the much disputed Ankoko Islands

More historic than the event itself was the unified response of the Youth Social Movement (Youth Arm of the PNC) and Progressive Youth Organisation (Youth Arm of the PPP) who staged a joint protest in front the Venezuelan Consulate; stormed the premises; and burned the Venezuelan flag.

Oh the slap in the face of diplomacy. The Government apologised.

The Government were all too assured that the issue of Guyana’s territorial sovereignty had been fortified after the Governments of Venezuela, the United Kingdom and Guyana signed the Geneva Agreement, which resolved controversial claim by Guyana’s eastern neighbour- Venezuela- over the enlarged claims to the Essequibo Region.

Much to their surprise, as documented by Guyana’s current Ambassador to Kuwait, Mr. Odeen Ishmael in “From Autocracy to Democracy”, that “Despite the declaration [of the Geneva Agreement], a few months later a well-armed group of Venezuelan soldiers, along with civilians, encroached upon and occupied territory on the Guyana side of the border.”

Unknown to the Government, the Venezuelans had claimed a section of the Ankoko Islands having extended their claim since then. While the Hugo Chavez government (1999-2013) did not pursuit the “La zona de reclamacion” agenda, as passionately as his predecessors; Guyana had still found itself defending sovereignty against the Maduro administration- who had pledged to continue the Chavista policies but has struggled to resound his authority as the charismatic Chavez had done.

In my ranting about “sovereignty”, which I presume are clouded by the Guyana Government’s most recent defence against alleged US interventionism, I speak of the social recognition of a people who identify themselves as being encompassed in the state and defenders of its existence.

For now, if there is any doubt that there is some possibility of relating the variables of population distribution and sovereignty or that the only variables to be derived from the preliminary census results are ethnic composition, migration and population size then we ought to look a bit deeper.

Guyana’s sovereignty depends on it.

5 thoughts on “SOVEREIGNTY AT RISK; Population Dynamics, the 2012 Census

  1. Good insight indeed. I like the example of Brazil’s reciprocation to the matter. However, empirically I would say that the people of Guyana are not that proactive to take such actions like those inspired by Brazil. Now how many average citizens know about this issue? Do you think they are willing to leave the “comforts” of the current “populated” areas to more remote ones “just” for “Guyana’s sovereignty?” My take on it is that, for them- the people, its up to our Government to deal with that issue, so that now brings to the table, what exactly the Government of Guyana is doing or going to do about its sovereignty with respect to Essequibo? Leaving it up to them, I won’t be surprised to hear that we have lost sovereignty to Essequibo!

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    1. You raise a very valid concern, Ms. Kalicharan. The role of the Government is to make circumstances favourable in these communities to encourage residents to want to venture away from the “comforts” of “populated” areas. Now what I can say is that I recall from the history books that when the US had first been colonised, land was distributed in such a way that the proportion of land given to a particular family was dependent on the amount of children they had. So they more children was the more land. I don’t know how true this is… but it gets you thinking. I think to myself that it hits two birds with one stone, such a move would not only contribute to the increase of the population based on the incentive of receiving more land but it also means that the land used would be developed whether for farming activities or other economic activities that would contribute to a whole.

      Guyana needs more townships and more cities, what the Government should do is to also decentralised the political, judicial, and legislative system to cater for those newly established regions. Our centralised institutions is reflective of our coastal demographics. This should change. I say this however, when this issue is resolved (and I have no reason to doubt that it would), you and I might not be around to see it. It could take the next 100 years to get one township built but remember… One one dutty build dam.

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  2. I agree with the ”kill two birds with one stone” scenario, however, do you really believe our Government is willing to develop those areas, keeping in mind that it is already a location faced with sovereign conflicts? Why invest ”more” when you’re not certain that maybe at some given time you might loose all rights to that region? Let’s also consider that for prospective regimes. Am just being logical here, would it be fair to ”invest” in those areas when they are similar ones in need of such developments moreover, these are areas suitable for the decentralized system you mentioned- the Rupununi for instance (not diverting from the current issue at hand here). Anyways, minus the cynical attitude of politics and every other issue in Guyana, you are right ”one one dutty build dam” …

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  3. Thanks again for commenting Ms. Kalicharan. What I got is that you were asking why it is that a Government should invest in expanding into a conflict zone? Simple, to fortify your claim to that zone. Today I had the privilege of visiting Essequibo and I spoke to one young lady and asked her a few questions about the presence of Venezuelans in the Region and her thoughts on it. Her answers, although they excited me, were chilling. However I digress. Moving back to the issue of investing in conflict, remember the example of Brazil was used to show how that nation had expanded its sovereignty by massive outward thrust campaigns towards the borders. Military power is one method for guarding sovereignty but in my estimation… the most potent is expanding settlements.

    I hate to use this excuse but look at the Gaza strip. Israel expanded and continues to expand into Palestinian territory… would we have to redefine the Israeli map after a permanent ceasefire- hopefully in the near future?

    How will they get rid of all those Israeli building stocks? You can’t argue with structures. Of course this is a simplistic answer but I look forward to providing any extra clarity.

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  4. Now I’m only curious about your interview with the people of Essequibo regarding the topical issue here! I would definitely like to know what they think of the entire matter.

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