By: Gilroy Usher, Sr.
Belizeans are peaceful people. We genuinely desire to put an end to Guatemala’s unfounded claim to a large part our country. We, however, cannot settle the claim at any cost to please Guatemala, mother England, and the international community.
Territorial disputes between small and large countries are a fact of life.
“From its independence from Spain in 1811 to the present time Venezuela has claimed more than half of the territory of Guyana. A border commission that was set up in 1966 with representatives from Guyana, Venezuela, and Britain failed to reach agreement. With changes in the governments of both countries, relations improved, to the extent that Venezuela sponsored Guyana’s 1990 bid for OAS membership.” -Google.
As with Guyana which gained independence from Britain in 1966, Belize will continue to exist regardless of how long the dispute remains unresolved. Similarly whether the dispute is resolved now or decades in the future that will not stop foreign investment in the country. American Sugary Refinery (ASR) and many other foreign companies continue to invest millions of dollars in Belize despite Guatemala’s claim to our land.
The Government says Belize will be victorious at the ICJ, because it has an ironclad case. We were also told that the country had a winning case when G.O.B. refused to pay due to compensation to the British billionaire Michael Ashcroft for the nationalization of BTL shortly after the UDP victory in the 2008 general elections. G.O.B. lost that case and was forced to pay Ashcroft $550.00 million for a company that was worth less that $2 million when it was appropriated.
All litigation carries a risk. If we vote (yes) to take the Guatemala dispute to the ICJ, and we lose the case, Belize will get the knife. The Judges will give Guatemala a portion of our land or sea to settle the dispute.
After both countries had signed the Compromis Guatemala literally annexed Sarstoon Island, which has belonged to Belize for centuries. With inaction from our own government, we must now get permission from the bully to visit our own Sarstoon Island. This clearly indicates that presently only Belize can lose at the ICJ.
The Referendum Unit has failed in its responsibility to present both the pros and the cons of going to the ICJ to enable the people to make an informed yes or no vote. That has occurred because G.O.B is using the millions of dollars allocated for that purpose, mainly to campaign all-out for a Yes vote.
In the normal course of litigation, the plaintiff provides the defendant with a claim before his court appearance for him to be aware of the charge against him. Not so with this Compromis. Belizeans will only be aware of what Guatemala is claiming in the dispute if they vote yes to the ICJ. Don’t believe the crop that Guatemala is eager to go to the ICJ knowing that it will lose its case.
We got independence in 1981 with all 8,867 square miles of our territory in tack because prior to 1981, we spotted the danger of losing a part of our land or sea with the Webster Proposals as well as the Heads of Agreement and rejected those terms of settlement.
Today a number of intellectuals are saying that Belizeans, who are calling for a vote on the ICJ are crazy. We must recall that Phillip Goldson was also called all kinds of derogatory names when he stood up for Belize and led the fight in the rejection of the Webster Proposals, The Heads of Agreement, and the Maritime Areas Act.
This government has been a huge failure in dealing with the Guatemalan issue. It can’t trust them. No to the ICJ.