On the Channel 5 newscast for February 11, 2012, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Attorney General, gave an interview in which he once again acted completely contrary to the national interests of Belize.
Mr. Elrington said: “But because the land border is already defined and the southern border is already defined, I am confident that nothing untoward can happen with respect to those two. The only place I think there is room for some surprise would have to be in the sea area or perhaps in the insular area, because those are not yet defined.”
It is only the Government and people of Guatemala who can draw any comfort from this amazing statement by the official spokesperson of Belize.
We are in the midst of a campaign that could lead to the unfounded Guatemalan Claim being submitted to the International Court of Justice. So is Guatemala. And yet, the Foreign Minister has publicly stated that Belize is vulnerable with respect to the maritime and island areas.
The Maritime Areas Act was passed in 1992. At that time, Belize decided to postpone claiming all its maritime and insular rights from the mouth of the Sarstoon River to Ranguana Caye in order to enable negotiations to take place between Belize and Guatemala and to a lesser extent, Honduras.
In December 2008, Minister Elrington, without the approval of the National Assembly, signed the Special Agreement with Guatemala which provided the framework for possibly submitting the Guatemalan Claim to the ICJ. This was based on the express recommendation of the Secretary General of Organization of the American States that there was no prospect of a negotiated settlement of the Claim.
The signing of the Special Agreement, and the mutual acceptance that a negotiated settlement was no longer possible, placed a solemn obligation on the Government to move with deliberate speed to formally declare Belize’s sovereign maritime and insular rights to the fullest extent, which had been postponed under the Maritime Areas Act. The only reason this was not done in 1992 was to enable negotiations to take place. That option has failed.
Four years have passed since it has been accepted that a negotiated settlement is not possible, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who is the Minister responsible for the implementation of the Maritime Areas Act, in breach of his national duty, has not yet taken steps to assert the fullness of Belize’s sovereignty.
And this week, without apology, the Foreign Minister and Attorney General has publicly stated that Belize is vulnerable in these areas. As long as he continues to be the front-man on the Belize Guatemala issue and the principal legal adviser to the Government, our national interest is gravely in jeopardy.
This is an unacceptable state of affairs. In 2010, Mr. Elrington asserted that our borders were artificial, and now another egregious gaffe. Whether he says these things from ignorance, negligence or plain stupidity, Belize needs to be saved from Mr. Elrington.
Eamon H. Courtenay