It has indeed been an eventful start of the year 2019. I am distressed by the continued insistence of the Police Department to refer to women as “females.” Of course women are of the female gender, and men are of the male gender. But why on earth are the new Commissioner of Police and his officers insisting on talking about girls and women as females? I am even more perturbed that Channel 5 TV have unthinkingly followed suit. In their report on the van that was stopped in Santa Elena, Cayo in which about fourteen persons, suspected victims of human trafficking, were found, Channel 5 referred in their news to fourteen females. Female cockroaches?

Female rabbits? I think not. If we say that men are charged with crimes or have been victims of crimes, then we should also say that women and girls have been so charged or are victims. Please, I ask the Police and no doubt reporters and the media as a whole to correctly refer to girls and women. They do correctly refer to men and boys. Female is an adjective, as is male. Let us have respect, people.

Having said that, I was told by a relative that when Ms. Pineda was brutally stabbed by her former common law husband in San Ignacio, a certain section of the media interviewed a twelve year old minor just after reports surfaced of the horrific killing. I cannot prove this, but if it is so, then I must call out the reporter/reporters responsible. Leave children out of media interviews, I must plead. There has been a ton of sensitization of the media and organizations where children are concerned. There is therefore still the need for all of us to internalize these requests and this good level of awareness. It is not acceptable for minors to be dragged into news reports. Let us leave that to adults and responsible officials, and let us protect our children.

Now – to this ICJ issue. Things are definitely heating up, and last week we saw five former foreign ministers holding a public forum in order to declare their support for going to the ICJ. They publicly signed a written declaration to this effect. While I do not doubt for a moment the seriousness of this and the sincerity of those who signed, as a PUP I feel bemused that Messrs. Smith, Shoman and Musa and Ms. Shoman appeared to be lending succour to the Prime Minister, the present government and the “Yes to ICJ” campaign. Why should they?? Since 2008 the UDP government have badly bungled everything where Belize/ Guatemala relations are concerned. I have written on this issue before, and I repeat that am completely opposed to Prime Minister Barrow now blithely telling the Belizean people that we must vote “yes.” It is this current foreign minister who has committed gaffe after foot-in-mouth and foot-in-mouth after gaffe for all these years. It is his boss who has not reined him in. The Barrow administration must not be taken off the hook!!

I disagree that the event held by our five former foreign ministers was a publicity stunt and a circus. This is very serious business. I do say clearly and unequivocally, however, that it is for good reason that there are so many persons who are unimpressed and extremely sceptical of all that is happening now. It is PM Barrow and his administration who must take ultimate responsibility for the huge difficulty that we are in. To be pellucidly clear I say again that you cannot mess around and blunder for ten years and then turn around and coolly tell people “follow me.”

I find myself to be in agreement that this ICJ vote should be put off. There is work to do. As Rt. Hon. Said Musa, Opposition Leader Johnny Briceno, and Hon. Francis Fonseca have pointed out we have laws to amend and stronger positions to be taken regarding our unfriendly and non-cooperative neighbour before any ICJ referendum is held. The government must also do more to ensure a solid and fair education campaign. This cannot happen within eleven weeks. If Barrow and Company do not heed the cries of so many we will surely end up in a quandary that we will not easily get out of.

To repeat, the declaration of last week was not a circus. I therefore urge a halt to the name-calling and grandstanding, from whichever quarter. That does not mean, however, that the government should press ahead when it is not prudent to do so. It is not too late to change the Foreign minister and to send a strong signal to Guatemala and the international community that we in Belize will not be trifled with. We can and should postpone this crucial vote. It is not impossible for the Prime Minister to wheel and come again. For the good of us all he should not be too proud to re-schedule. In the present circumstances this has to be the best course.