Features — 18 August 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
BREDAA’s Bilal Morris speaks out

On the postponement of Government’s ICJ outreach to diaspora Belizeans until November

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Aug. 15, 2018– The Belize Government was scheduled to have some “outreach tours” in an auditorium-type format with Belizeans living in the diaspora, but in a letter addressed to “members of the Belizean community,” dated August 8 and signed by Belize Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Ambassador Francisco Daniel Gutierrez, it was announced that the format of the outreach has changed.

The letter to the Belizean community states: “In an attempt to improve the outreach to the Belizeans living in the United States, the Government of Belize has decided to change the format of the ICJ tours from an auditorium session with Q & A (question and answer), to an auditorium session with Q & A to be broadcast live on an electronic platform.”

Continuing, the letter said: “We believe that this will allow for more outreach and go beyond the original outreach to a few cities, to now encompass any Belizean who wants to view the presentation via the World Wide Web. For us to ensure we have the outreach properly planned, and in order to provide for widest participation, we need to move the presentation to November of this year.”

The letter ends with Ambassador Gutierrez apologizing “for any inconvenience this may cause but the optimum outreach is of utmost importance for the overall education exercise. Updates will be provided as soon as they become available.”

The government’s so-called International Court of Justice (ICJ) educational outreach to diaspora Belizeans might be just about theater. After all, the ongoing re-registration exercise exposes the fact that many, or probably most, Belizeans in the diaspora have been disenfranchised based on a two-month residency requirement under the Representation of the People’s Act, the law governing the registration of electors.

In mid-July, a group of diaspora Belizeans, including Muriel Laing Arthurs, Bilal Morris, Hubert Pipersburgh, Joseph Guerrero, Debbie Curling and Aria Lightfoot, met with Prime Minister Dean Barrow to discuss the issue of re-registration and the fact that Guatemalans, who became naturalized Belizeans, would be able to re-register and vote in the April 2019 ICJ referendum, as well as other matters relating to Belizeans in the diaspora.

We asked Bilal Morris to comment on the fact that the government wants to hold this ICJ education outreach with Belizeans in the diaspora.

Morris said the Belize government’s ICJ education campaign for Belizeans in the diaspora is failing because of the resistance of BREDAA (Belize Rural Economic Development of Agriculture through Alliance) to the 2008 compromis that the government signed with Guatemala.

Morris added, “We launched an effective popular education campaign against the signed compromis in the Los Angeles Belizean community on Radio KPFK, Los Angeles (KPFK is a part of the Pacifica Public-Supported radio network and also operates on the east coast of New York).”

Morris added, “We showed that the so-called Special Agreement was a betrayal of the Belizean people’s trust, because the government of Belize violated the Constitution of Belize by signing the compromis”.

We asked him if Belizeans in the diaspora should be concerned that the Belize Government wants to reach out to them through an ICJ education campaign. The following is his response.

“The issue goes beyond refusing the Belizean diaspora to vote in the 2019 referendum. It is an extension of the bigger campaign by the Barrow administration, as well as its Opposition (PUP), to erode the rights of natural born Belizeans abroad to not only vote in all of Belize’s elections but to hold political office in Belize. If you notice, the Opposition’s Eamon Courtenay’s article [in an issue of the Amandala two Fridays ago] on the issue goes so far in support of the Belizean diaspora, but stopped at the restoration of natural-born Belizeans’ rights in the diaspora in the 7th Amendment, that will allow them to get back those rights.

“So then, because of the resistance against both of these two political parties and their governments by BREDAA over some 30 years of activism, we feel that the Belizean people abroad are being punished by a bipartisan Belize political force that has been in cahoots now for years in appeasing the Guatemalan military oligarchy since the 1992 Maritime Areas Act (MAA).

“Because of this, decades of resistance in the Belizean diaspora against the PUDP neo-colonialists, we are being punished for going on record in support of Minister [Philip] Goldson’s dream of not ceding any land to the Guatemalan military oligarchy, and also his dream of making sure that the Belizeans in the diaspora, or abroad for lack of a better word, natural-born Belizean rights are secured by all means necessary. Today this is a dream deferred as you well know.

“The issue is transnational driven, and these people are being financed by multinationals who want Belize to become a part of Guatemala. We at BREDAA are looking at the bigger scheme. We do not see the Belize diaspora vote issue in the referendum as the critical and urgent issue here. For all we know, Barrow can use his executive powers to do whatever he wants. But he won’t because he sees this resistance that BREDAA has posed here in the Belizean diaspora as threatening his last wishes as a three-time black Belizean PM. He wants to go out saying he solved the Guatemalan claim through the ICJ. And this campaign, as I said, is failing both at home and abroad.

“Again, the reason why they are beginning to reconsider whether to come out here with that so-called educational campaign is because we in BREDAA have sent a serious message to the centers of power in Belize through our July 1, 2018 diaspora town hall meeting, that anything less than giving Belizeans abroad their rights to vote in that 2019 referendum will not be tolerated, and will be resisted by all means necessary, which includes protesting against any Belize government delegation that comes here in Los Angeles with that kind of political trickery.

“How the hell are you going to come to us here in the diaspora, to so-call educate us, when you have not given us the right to vote in the 2019 referendum? We, as BREDAA in L.A., along with the Los Angeles Belizean community, have protested in front of the Guatemalan Consulate here, against the Guatemalan Claim and the ICJ, and we will do the same to any Belizean government who thinks that they will take away natural born Belizeans right to vote and yet want us to support their unholy alliance with the Guatemalan military oligarchy, the OAS and the impartial ICJ. We will always resist,” Bilal Morris said.

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