Tuesday, 11 April 2017
“Do you agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize relating to land and insular territories and to any maritime areas pertaining to these territories should be submitted to the International Court of Justice for final settlement and that it determine finally the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of the Parties?”
That is the question that Belizeans will have to answer whenever they go to referendum on whether the Belize-Guatemala territorial dispute should be submitted to the ICJ for final resolution. We have known that Guatemala claims almost half of Belize’s territory from the Sibun to the Sarstoon but last week Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister, Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington said the referendum question means that Guatemala claims all of Belize.
He explained on a rare appearance on KREM’s WUB Morning Vibes that if the question was not framed so broadly, “Guatemala may one day come back and say ‘look, we did not resolve this part of it so we have to go to Court. We didn’t resolve that part of it so we have to go to Court.’ So once the matter is put in this broad way, then the Court will deal with the matter definitively. In other words, we are not saying what claim, if any, Guatemala has to the Sibun or what claim it has to the Sarstoon. No. It’s everything.”
So when the show host asked, “in reality...we put up the entire country?” Elrington responded that since 1939, Guatemala has claimed all of Belize, and does so up to now. This notwithstanding that Guatemalan officials and media report that their country is only claiming almost half of Belize. Elrington proceeded to add that if the Guatemalans are claiming that the 1859 Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty does not exist, then they are claiming the entire country. Of the position that the Guatemalans are only claiming from Sibun down to the Sarstoon, he said “that is not the legal position.”
Elrington insisted that they are not doing anything prejudicial to Belize and are simply saying to the Court, “tell us then, what, if any part of this country Guatemala is entitled to. Once the Court pronounces on that, Guatemala can’t come and say well, we nevah touch the cayes, or we nevah touch the island or we nevah touch the river, no! Because everything was put on the table based on their position as articulated on the 21st of September 1939.”
Elrington has affirmed that “whatever the Court says is Belize’s territory, that is what I will go with.” At the same time, he is unprepared to accept that Belize could stand to lose even a sliver of the country’s territory and waters based on Belize’s entitlement according to law, but how many times have we heard the same story and been slapped with adverse court orders?
What’s more, a few minutes later into the show, in confused Sedi fashion, he ascertained that Belize’s Western and Southern borders will not be changed because no Court will disturb an established boundary. He proclaims that in Belize’s case our borders have been established by two treaties but shortly after turns around and says that when it comes to the Southern maritime area, from the Sibun downwards, that must be determined by International Law. So why the need to include all of Belize in the referendum question? Well, seconds later he says the Maritime border cannot be identified unless the Western border is agreed on.
Moments before, he had said in one breath that Guatemala recognizes our borders but shortly after he stated that because of Guatemala’s claim, Belize’s borders are no longer accepted in international law as the point from which we can move to establish our Maritime border. So, are we the only ones who remember the Belize Territorial Volunteers and the media trips to the Western and Southern borders where they saw border markers clearly established?
We maintain that it is dangerous to go to the ICJ under this confused and borderline senile Foreign Minister. The risk of losing what we hold most dear, even an inch of the 8867, is just too great.