May 26, 2018
I would like to comment on the Belize/Guatemala referendum and going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The government has recently announced re-registration to clean up the voters’ list, to make sure all those on the list are actually eligible and legal to vote, and all information is up to date for the upcoming ICJ referendum. A noble endeavor, except they have already made it illegal from the start by allowing naturalized Guatemalans to be included on the voters’ list.
Another one of the government’s attempts to convince us once again that yes, two wrongs do make a right. I will explain the reason I say this. First of all, the supreme law of our land is the constitution, and it is explicit in saying it is illegal to grant anyone from another country citizenship if their country of origin has a territorial claim against Belize. Guatemala has a claim, and has continued to have one for over one hundred plus years. Our political parties (government) have treated our constitution and laws like they are pieces of paper pulled out of a suggestion box to be used or ignored as they see fit. They believe that as our elected servants, they are somehow above the laws or the judgments of our local courts (Elvin Penner, for example), our highest court (debating in the House if they are going to pay the judgment of the Caribbean Court of Justice in favor of the former owner of BTL, like it’s a choice), and even the constitution, if it stands in their unrelenting obsession with staying in power.
Do not kid yourself. The granting of citizenship to Guatemalans, even though strictly forbidden by the constitution, was not done because of our government’s compassion and empathy for the people of Guatemala. If it was, we would see some of that compassion and empathy shown, towards the poor people of our country.
No, it was done by the party in power as a way of getting votes and retaining power; damn the constitution.
Now I have nothing against the Guatemalan people. Most are fine, humble, hardworking folks. It is not their fault that their constitution and government refuse to allow them to renounce their Guatemalan citizenship, except in rare cases. And I don’t blame them a bit for accepting Belizean citizenship, but therein lies the rub to Belize, and possibly our case at the ICJ.
Since the Guatemalan constitution does not allow any of its citizens to be stateless, the government does not allow them to renounce their citizenship. It would be a violation of their constitution, the supreme law of their land, and it is just not done!
Now here we are on the Belize side, where our greedy self-serving politicians ignore our constitution and grant Guatemalans citizenship, thus violating our constitution in order to comply with the Guatemalan constitution.
My, my, what would the ICJ say to this?
I think there is a simple solution to this that will not penalize Guatemalans who received illegal citizenship (our fault, not theirs). Since they must present their nationality certificate at immigration before they are allowed to be put on the voters’ registration list anyhow, let’s change this. When they present their nationality certificate, they are given a permanent residence card instead and Belizean citizenship is revoked.
As harsh as this sounds, citizenship was granted illegally and against our constitution (again, our fault not theirs). This really will not change much for them except they will not have the right to vote, and Belize will be able to stand in front of the ICJ and prove our constitution is indeed a valid document; the supreme law of the land, not something to be tinkered with or ignored arbitrarily.
Then, if and when the dispute is settled, all Guatemalans with previously issued nationality certificates only need go to immigration and present them, whereupon they will be granted immediate citizenship.
Once again, this might sound like a harsh way to correct an illegality of choice but this dispute is not about a few dollars or a couple of acres of land, it is about possibly losing our country!
Now, picture a lawyer from Guatemala standing in front of the judges at the ICJ telling them how they have exercised their total control over the Sarstoon with nary a peep from the Belize government.
Hear him explain how Guatemalan citizens have encroached into Belize and extracted our precious metals and fauna, and built villages in Belize with very little if any resistance from government.
And then, top it off with him telling how our Foreign Minister has called the Belizean borders “artificial,” even though they are enshrined in our constitution, and of his almost constant defense of Guatemala’s actions against Belize.
Hear him tell of our Foreign Minister’s almost constant condemnation of all those who speak out against his questionably traitorous remarks. That sounds like a pretty decent argument for Guatemala’s side.
Then you add that the government of Belize is willing to violate their own constitution in favor of Guatemala’s constitution in order to give Guatemalans what they have been taught is already rightfully (?) theirs.
This convincing argument makes it sound like our constitution isn’t worth the paper it was printed on, and at the very least, we are already a satellite state of Guatemala.
Don’t fool yourself; we are going to the ICJ. Dean Barrow is for it and what Dean Barrow wants Dean Barrow gets. When your government is willing to disregard the rule of law, is willing to disregard the order of the courts, and willing to disregard the constitution, what the hell does the outcome of a referendum mean to them?
Barrow’s proclamation that this is a watertight case means nothing to me. We are still trying to pay off the billion dollars his last “airtight” proclamations cost us. Gambling with my money is one thing; gambling with my country is another!
(Signed) Sam Trucco