The Editor Amandala
During a press meeting reported by Channel 5 on Friday, March 17, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the nation of Belize, the Hon. Wilfred Elrington, is quoted as saying, “Up to this present time we still don’t have internationally recognized borders.” I believe Channel 5 was kind in referring to this statement as “stunning”, but I don’t have to be kind, so I will refer to the statement as “outrageous.” From this statement, we can infer that our Constitution which defines the limits of our country is not recognized internationally either.
In the more than half a century that I have been involved with this unfortunate, unfounded claim by the Republic of Guatemala to our homeland, the only experience I have had with those who would not recognize nor respect our borders, whether it was the printing of maps of Central America, literature given out at trade shows, the circulation of their own postage stamps or their own passports, which include a map of Belize, was the government of Guatemala.
Guatemala has gone so far as to offer oil exploration to an American company to operate in Belizean territory in 1992. They have “forced” the nation of Greece to disallow our High Commissioner to the UK to be seated in an Athens meeting in March of 1994. That was when a member of the British Parliament suggested that “we send back the Harriers to Belize.”
Our maritime limits are taken care of by UNCLOS (The United Nations Conference on the Laws of the Sea). Our own and only international lawyer, the late Edward A. Laing, Jr., was one of the twenty one judges at the Hamburg Court in Germany. I was with Eddie at the headquarters of the ISA (The International Seabed Authority) in Kingston, Jamaica where he made sure that the interest of Belize was assured even though it is extremely unlikely that Belize would ever be interested in mining for minerals on the seabed in international waters. At the time of Professor Laing’s death, the Los Angeles Times published his record as provided by the UNCLOS Tribunal (enclosed).
Edward Laing, 59, Maritime Law Judge
September 16, 2001/From a Times Staff Writer
Edward A. Laing, a member of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and an influential lawyer and ambassador around the world, has died in his native Belize. He was 59. Laing, who taught law for many years in the United States, died Tuesday, according to a statement from the tribunal, based in Hamburg, Germany. No cause of death was given. While he was the Belize Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Laing was elected to the court in 1996 with the highest number of votes among the 21 judges chosen, winning approval of 88 of the 100 voting states. His term would have expired in 2002. The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice at The Hague are the world’s only two permanent courts established to weigh international legal disputes. The Hamburg court deals with rules and standards governing the uses of the sea, protection and utilization of marine resources and maritime boundaries.
An expert on Caribbean and maritime law, Laing was educated at Cambridge University in England and Columbia University in New York and taught law at the University of the West Indies, Notre Dame University in Indiana, the University of Maryland, New York Law School and Howard University in Washington, where he also directed the graduate program.
He served as Belize’s ambassador to the United States and High Commissioner to Canada from 1985 to 1990, also representing Belize during that period on the Organization of American States.
In 1993, he was sent to the United Nations, where he was a leader in efforts to reform the Security Council. One proposal he set forth for Belize was sharing seats on the council to increase participation by developing countries.
Laing had long been a familiar face at international meetings on maritime law and U.N. economic, humanitarian, legal and social issues. Among those were meetings of the World Bank, Caribbean Community and Commonwealth Heads of Government.
Earlier in his career, Laing served on the Belize-Guatemala Permanent Joint Commission and in a group that negotiated the treaty for the Assn. of Caribbean States.
He wrote widely on maritime law, international law, international development and legal education.
Laing was married to Margery V. Fairweather and had two children, Obi Uchenna and Nyasha Refaro Laing.