Features — 08 August 2018
Don’t”compound” non-support for our number one ally

On June 22, 2017, Belize joined 94 nations of the world in denouncing the British, yes, our number one ally, for resisting a call by Mauritius for her, the UK, to join Mauritius at the ICJ so they could settle a claim by Mauritius for the Chagos Archipelago. Just for the record, the US was not one of those 94 nations, but Guatemala was.

The Wikipedia says the archipelago in question, which is situated in the Indian Ocean, has a land area of 21.7 square miles, and has a population, in 2014, of 3,000. The largest island in the archipelago, Diego Garcia Island, serves as a joint military base for the UK and the USA. The British and the Americans consider the Chagos Archipelago to be of strategic importance.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) vote, on June 22, 2017, was, the UN websitewww.un.org/press/en/2017 says, to get the “International Court of Justice (to) render an advisory opinion on the legal consequences arising from the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius before that island nation’s independence in the 1960s.”

The Wikipedia says that the Republic of Mauritius”includes the islands of Mauritius and Rodrigues, and the outer islands Agaléga, St. Brandon, and two disputed territories.” The country has an area of 790 square miles, and its population in 2016 was estimated at 1,262,000.

Mauritius is “formerly a Dutch colony (1638–1710), and a French colony (1715–1810),” and it “became a British colonial possession in 1810.” The country once included the Seychelles, but it “gradually devolved with the creation of a separate colony of Seychelles in 1903 and the excision of the Chagos Archipelago in 1965…three years prior to Mauritian independence.” Mauritius is a member of the Commonwealth, La Francophonie, and the African Union.

At the UNGA, 94 voted for, 15 voted against, and 65 countries did not support, the UN adopting a text which recalled that organization’s “1965 resolution in which it asked the United Kingdom not to dismember the territory of Mauritius ahead of its independence in 1968. It asked the Court whether the decolonization of Mauritius had been carried out in a lawful manner, given the Archipelago’s subsequent separation.”

Speaking for Mauritius, Anerood Jugnauth (a former prime minister and president of the country), said that a vote for the draft resolution was a “vote in support of completing the process of decolonization, respect for international law and the rule of law.”

The spokesperson for the UK explained that they would not consent to a judicial settlement, however they respected “Mauritius’ long-term interest in the Archipelago,” and that the UK agreed for “a framework for joint management of all its islands except Diego Garcia, the site of a military base.” The UK spokesperson said “the territory had been created for defence purposes in a joint agreement with the United States,” and that “sovereignty would revert to Mauritius when the territory was no longer required for that purpose.”

Braa, the physical defense of the British is important to Belize. It was so in WWI, it was so in WWII, and it is so today. Belize became an independent country because of the world of nations, and the support of the British. I will not go so far as to say that Belize’s voting against the British is a major betrayal, but I think it was not carefully thought out.

The guardian.com described the vote at the UN as a humiliating defeat for the British. The Guardian(UK) said that many EU members, friends of the British, abstained, including France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, Greece and Finland. It also noted that Canada and Switzerland abstained.

We don’t have to think too hard to figure out why Belize would naturally support Mauritius in an anti-colonial claim. And we don’t have to think too hard to figure out why Belize would naturally support the British in most of her ambitions. The British are the ones whom the UN ordered to help stand guard with us after 1981.

We were between two lovers here, but it was pretty clear which one we were to choose. The clincher, if we needed a crutch to lean on, is the stated position of the UK, that they accepted Mauritius’ position, and that at an appropriate time they would hand over the little islands of Chagos.

Even a waffler would have found a safe path. This geopolitics isn’t a love affair, it is the practical side of life, the side where you make decisions in full sober mind. We could have, like Canada, abstained. Belize decided to vote against the British. Our decision is really surprising.

I don’t think there’s any comment on my files about our vote in this case. In the first half of 2017, I was a writer without a column, hence the late weigh-in. The “chektaiz” is for the record. The advice coming is pure utility. I am asking our Foreign Ministry to please don’t “compound” our non-support for our number one ally.

I read an ICJ Press Release of August 1, 2018 (Press Release 2018/39), and it is saying that Belize will make a presentation on Tuesday, 4th September, from 3:00 to 3:40 in the afternoon, at the Hague, re the request for a legal opinion from the court at the Hague on the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965.

The UK’s position is not indefensible. Understandably, Mauritius, and the people of the Chagos Archipelago, have a beef. We, as a former colony ourselves, can feel their pain. But we must ask them to cut the British a little slack here. If they can’t, we must ask them to understand our position.

It is fashionable for former colonies to point out the faults of colonial masters. I really don’t see anyone out there who is without sin.The British have said that they respect Mauritius and the people of the island in contention, and they will resolve the matter over time.

There are times in a nation’s life when it is faced with tough decisions. The present US government put Belize in such a place when it decided that it would, against the stated position of almost the entire UNGA, move its embassy to Jerusalem. Many Belizeans wanted Belize to support the US decision. It is not easy for Belize to vote against the US. But supporting the US decision to move their embassy to Jerusalem was impossible.

In Biblical times, there were times when Israel, as God’s chosen people, was way out of line. But in 2018, this so-called Israel, under Netanyahu, incredibly can do no wrong. The sages teach us that everything on earth can be done to excess. Religion, no matter what the pastors say, is of earth. If any dare dispute, ask them who made their jet plane. Belize really had no choice, other than to reject the US’s hard, provocative decision.

Former US president, Barack Obama, could have preempted the recent Trump move. Jimmy Carter advised him to recognize the State of Palestine before Donald Trump took office. But Barack didn’t have the hoof to wear Jimmy Carter’s shoes.

Belize supports many intiatives of the US, and in the world scheme we certainly think of ourselves as their allies. But they let us down many times. In the Amandala on Friday, there is a story from teleSur which told of the murder of a 25-year-old female nurse/human rights activist in Guatemala. The story says that six members of Codeca (Committee of Campesino Development) have been murdered in Guatemala this year.

The US has to understand that they get blamed when activists for human rights and environment protectors are killed in the Americas. That’s because of the US’s support for dictators in the last century, support given in money and weapons.The Venezuelan president came under violent attack on the weekend. The US has said that it absolutely has nothing to do with that. We want to believe them. We want to believe that they will not support terrible right wing excesses, as they did in the past.

When it comes to the British, we are much closer. The face on our money is not Benjamin, it is Queen E. Yes, I know it is fashionable, macho, to bash the former colonial master. I never said they are without sin. Please, there are not that many sides in this world to choose from. And all they’re asking for in this Chagos matter is a little pass, for a time.

(Ed. NOTE: The columnist is not aware of the human side of the Diego Garcia matter. If he reads David Vine’s “ISLAND OF SHAME: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia,” published by Princeton University Press in 2009, he will better understand why 94 nations, including Belize, voted against the British.)

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Deshawn Swasey

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