Editorial — 22 March 2013

The circumstances under which the Guatemalan Foreign Minister did not show up in Washington for an Organization of American States (OAS) meeting Sunday with a Belize delegation led by Belize’s Foreign Minister, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, constitute disrespect to Mr. Elrington and, by extension, disrespect to Belize.

As far as we know, this is the very first time such a violation of diplomatic protocol has taken place when talks between Guatemala and Belize have been held through the years. This disrespect is, however, not surprising to the Belizean people, because we know that this is how the Guatemalan government and ruling classes feel about us Belizeans – that we are inferior to them.

Nevertheless, the disrespect to Belize on the OAS stage was a mistake by the Guatemalans, because in the regional capitals and corridors of power this is how it will be viewed. In Belize, on the other hand, there has been a disconnect between Minister Elrington and the Belizean people since he made some controversial statements at the time of the signing of the compromis in December of 2009, and then refused to withdraw those statements or adequately explain them. Because of that disconnect, the Belizean people have not reacted to Sunday’s disrespect with the vitriol one would have expected. To an extent, some Belizeans appear to feel that Minister Elrington got what he was looking for.

Sedi Elrington is not a bad guy, and he is a sincere Belizean. The problem is that he is out-of-step with the Belizean mood. He is out-of-step with the Belizean mood because, for almost three decades now, he has been one of the multimillionaire Belizean attorneys who live in a social and financial world of their own. If you look at the “Creole” people of Belize, as marginalized and embattled as we are, the attorneys represent the most distinctly successful class. And, the attorneys have developed an “attitude.” They are elitist.

With Sunday’s disrespect a matter of record, it is definitely now time for us Belizeans to close ranks. Something spooked the Guatemalan government to the extent that they felt they had to behave in that manner and seek to abort the ICJ referendum process. Our understanding at this newspaper is that the Guatemalan government was deathly afraid of a referendum result wherein Guatemala voted “yes” and Belize voted “no” to the ICJ. The Guatemalans’ intelligence was probably accurate where the mood in Belize is concerned: Belizeans’ initial, gut reaction to ICJ consultation appears to be “no.” But, this was always an eight-month process.

We think now is the time for Prime Minister Dean Barrow to relieve Mr. Elrington of the cross he has been bearing. Remember now, Mr. Elrington has done very little which the Belize Cabinet has not instructed and advised him to do. Sedi began to become a fall guy or scapegoat in late 2009, to repeat, because he was out-of-step with the new Belizean militancy. In Sedi’s logical mind, such a militancy is risky and it is ill-conceived, because of Guatemala’s size and power relative to Belize’s.

When Belizeans took to the streets in 1966, 1968, and 1981, however, and the Elrington family was involved, according to Sedi’s personal testimony, where was the logic then? Was resistance logical then only because the British were still here? And is resistance no longer logical because the British are no longer here? These are questions the Elrington family has to consider. The indications in 2013 are that there is presently a flaw in their thinking where this Guatemalan question is concerned. At the very least, we repeat, they are out-of-step with the mood of the Belizean masses.

In Belize City, the Opposition People’s United Party has not been able to take advantage of popular dissatisfaction with Sedi Elrington’s Foreign Ministry problems, which are, of course, the Government of Belize’s problems, because the PUP of 2013 is too obviously not the party of Clifford Betson and Henry Middleton. What we mean by this, will have to be carefully explained to those PUP rookies who have been publicly presenting the PUP’s agenda. If this is not carefully explained, GOB continues to enjoy a free pass.

Yet, the frustration and anger of the Belizean people will continue to grow. You know, we’re talking here about the very survival of Belize. On the Guatemalan side, when Barack returns from Israel he will likely send a little message to Pérez Molina. In Guatemala, the people don’t matter that much. So a message from Barack to Otto will achieve the desired result. But, that’s not the way it works in Belize. We have a parliamentary democracy in Belize, and when that doesn’t work, we walk the walk. That’s the message Belizeans have been trying to send to Sedi. We love him as our Belizean brother, but maybe it’s a case of his having to spend too much time counting money, and not enough time dealing with the real.

Power to the people.

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