Letters — 19 March 2010 — by Orlando de la Fuente
March 18, 2010
I write to express my disappointment in some recent policy decisions made by Hon. Sedi Elrington as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In his push to have the International Court of Justice rule on the Guatemalan claim to Belize, did he consider the following points?
In September 1981 when Belize was accepted by the United Nations as an independent nation, we were recognised as sovereign by all member nations except Guatemala. Belize was accepted as a member nation without prejudice and with our borders intact.
Does the Honourable Minister realise then that to place Guatemala’s claim in the hands of the ICJ, he is by default forfeiting Belize’s acceptance into the United Nations? Does he realise that he is also forfeiting the endorsement of all member nations of this world body? There is no higher world body than the United Nations, and our flag flies along with all other member nations at the United Nations Tower.
It’s ironic that Belize and Guatemala enjoy diplomatic relations. Guatemala even has a resident ambassador to Belize. I find this to be the greatest proof that even Guatemala recognizes Belize as sovereign. If not, why then would she establish diplomatic relations with us?
In placing this decision in the hands of the ICJ, Guatemala has everything to gain and nothing to lose. Belize has the most to lose.
Belize does not have to prove anything. We are firmly established and accepted in the international community as sovereign. Guatemala has the problem. We should not do anything to facilitate Guatemala’s claim. It lends credence to their claim if we agree to submit their dispute to the ICJ for judgement. It is a step backwards for us.
Belize needs to take a firm stance, a hard line. I feel like sheep being taken for slaughter.
When Guatemala objects to Belize’s military outpost on the border, our response must be measured carefully. It should not be one of contrition or apology. When Guatemala’s military accosted the BDF on the Sarstoon River and had them use another route for patrols, our response must be measured. A clear policy must be defined for possible scenarios like these. It lends credence to Guatemala’s claim if we show contrition or if we apologise. A mild response will embolden Guatemala.
I am lost for words to describe my sentiments when I heard on the news that Guatemala’s military accosted the BDF and forced them to divert their patrols to another branch of the Sarstoon River. Missions are clearly defined in the military. The BDF patrol must have had their mission clearly spelled out. The BDF should have completed their mission. The patrol should have continued. In the aftermath, diplomacy may be engaged. I consider the patrol of our borders a matter of national importance.
The regard that Guatemala holds for us is contemptible, since even Guatemalan squatters are prepared to confront the BDF with machetes. I don’t condone the abuse of human rights. I believe in the right to legal representation and a fair trial.
Simply put, Guatemala engages in these actions because she can. Since the negotiations started for settlement with the ICJ, the situation has flared up more often. They are pushing the envelope.
If Belize voluntarily submits to the ICJ, and the ICJ rules against us, the judgement is easier to enforce.
The ICJ rules on two types of cases: contentious and advisory. Guatemala’s case will be contentious. But Belize is under no obligation to submit to the ICJ. At present not even the United States has accepted compulsory jurisdiction by the ICJ. The US withdrew from compulsory jurisdiction in 1986 and accepts the court’s ruling only on a case by case basis.
If both states, Guatemala and Belize, were to voluntarily submit the dispute to the ICJ, it is described as “compromis.” This type of hearing is based on explicit consent rather than compulsory jurisdiction. The ruling then has greater consequences.
“Guatemala feliz…!que tus aras , No profane jamas el verdugo…” These are words from the Guatemalan National Anthem.
Belizeans, are you prepared to sing the Guatemalan National Anthem? Salute their flag? Change our national food from rice and beans to chuchitos and enrollados?
I would like to continue this discourse next week with the two issues: Israel and the repercussions for Belize, and the composition and jurisdiction of the ICJ.
Orlando de la Fuente