Features — 23 February 2016 — by Johnelle McKenzie
Bar discusses the Belize-Guatemala territorial differendum

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 22, 2016–On Friday, February 19, the Bar Association of Belize held their annual conference at the Belize Biltmore Plaza. Jacqueline Marshalleck, the President of the Bar Association, stated, “The purpose of the conference is to educate attorneys on the issue of the long-standing Belize-Guatemala territorial claim in order that attorneys can advocate and explain the subject.”

Marshalleck said the Bar is a statutory body, under the Legal Profession Act, Chapter 320 of the Laws of Belize, and that apart from representing the interests of our members, it allows us to be an advocate for other issues. Marshalleck said, “For example, [we can step in] where a citizen is affected by police brutality, although, of course, there is a procedure to deal with that issue. However, if that process is broken or not moving the way it should, that would be where we would be able to provide some level of assistance.”

Among the presenters, at the conference were attorneys Assad Shoman and Eamon Courtenay. Shoman told the media, “Belizeans need to wake up, since the Guatemala issue, which has been around for some time now, is getting worse.” Shoman said that for the last few years Guatemala has been dictating what Belize should or should not do, and therefore, Belize needs to take back the agenda.

Mr. Courtenay said, “I agree that we need to take back the agenda; this means dealing with what is happening on the ground; they are security threats in the Sarstoon and the Western border; there is serious contraband, trafficking of drugs and persons, and degradation of the forest. Those are the things we need to deal with aggressively, with the support of the international community.” Courtenay said that there needs to be “new confidence building measures for the Sarstoon on both sides,” and we need to decide on taking the matter to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Mr. Shoman added that, “Guatemala has been signing agreements and then breaking them, while Belize has been impeccable in its actions.” Shoman made reference to the ruling United Democratic Party’s manifesto, in which they committed to colonizing the border, and he hopes that it is something that would take place soon.

Courtenay spoke of the Forwarding Operating Base (FOB), saying he would have like to see a larger structure built there. However, he was made to understand from Brigadier-General David Jones that the terrain would not permit for that to happen. Courtenay went on to say that an agreement between Belize and Guatemala must be reached in order to avoid confrontations from occurring at the Sarstoon.

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