THE ICJ—YES or NO
The teachers, citizens, and leaders of Punta Gorda who didn’t attend the educational forum that the BNTU sponsored on the evening of May 26 not only missed out on well presented facts and ideas of the participating presenters but also missed out on the opportunity to participate in the democratic process. One would think that with a subject as important as the ICJ issue, citizens would want as much information on the various sides as possible. By not attending they are not as well informed as they need to be. Pleading ignorance may work as an excuse for the average citizen but it is not an option that is normally granted to those who have been tasked to educate our children. Neither the Government nor the Opposition had a presenter so we are left to wonder whether they are truly interested in the education of the populace on this vital issue.
I certainly learned a great deal I hadn’t been aware of before. I do not want to believe the government has deliberately deluded the people, but I do believe they have been encouraged by outside interests to look at solutions to the Belize/Guatemala issue from only one perspective (There is also the possibility that having so many lawyers running the Government causes them to favor litigation when there are other ways of approaching a problem.) The presentations convinced me that there are alternatives that should be explored before taking the risky ICJ route.
Both the VIP and the BPP gave evidence at the forum of another approach. They made two very critical points.
1. By law the Compromis document is not legal until it goes to the legislative arm of our government to be ratified like every other treaty that the government signs. What this means is that citizens still have an opportunity to influence the way this issue is approached.
2. The wording of the present Compromis is such that a “yes” vote for going to the ICJ is an admission that Guatemala HAS a legal claim or claims that Belize will have to answer to. This is not a position we want to be in before the case is even heard.
The Belize—Guatemala Referendum: The BPP and VIP believe they have found an alternative to our going to the ICJ as a way to settle this claim. If the people of Belize vote NO in the referendum then Guatemala’s only recourse will be to go to the UN Security Council where they then will have to beg the Council to hear the matter. That will insure that whatever is determined will not include ceding land, since the UNSC has already sanctioned Belize’s independence with territory intact.
This thinking is based on resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly 3432(XXX) Question of Belize, 2431st plenary meeting 8 December 1975 which:
1. Reaffirms the inalienable right of the people of Belize to self-determination and independence;
2. Declares that the inviolability and territorial integrity of Belize must be preserved;
3. Declares that any proposals for the resolution of these differences of opinion that may emerge from the negotiations between the administering Power and the Government of
Guatemala must be in accordance with the provisions of paragraphs 1 and 2. (It seems clear that this instruction indicates the problem to be resolved is between the administrating Power [Great Britain] and the Government of Guatemala.)
35/20 Question of Belize—57th plenary meeting November 11, 1980: #7. (The UNSC) Requests the relevant organs of the United Nations to take such actions as may be appropriate and as may be requested by the administering Power and the Government of Belize in order to facilitate the attainment of independence by Belize and to guarantee its security and territorial integrity thereafter:
It was the opinion of one of the presenters at the forum that Guatemala’s intention is to claim half the Belizean territory (from the Belize River to the Sarstoon) in hopes of getting a settlement that would include the territory from Monkey River to the Sarstoon. Their interest in this area is due largely to oil deposits in waters off Monkey River and in oil deposits in the Temash/Sarstoon Reserve. I have no way to confirm this opinion but it seems very plausible. Since the Guatemalans have not been forthcoming about their claims then we just have to second guess them.
There has been, and perhaps still is, an opportunity to jettison the Compromis completely. Now that the Guatemalans have shown continued aggression the Belize Government could go straight to the United Nations Security Council for help. The Security Council could then ask the ICJ for an opinion on the current case without jeopardizing our territory by going to court.
If the economy of Belize was any smaller than it is at present, we could hardly expect to operate all the institutions that are required for a nation to be sovereign. Loss of any territory means a shrinking of the economy and therefore a threat to our very existence. So this is an issue of concern for every Belizean no matter what part of the country you reside in.