“We have managed to live pretty secure lives … we have not had the Guatemalans coming and occupying our country or taking a part of it … we have lived together [with Guatemala] pretty well, side by side, with good neighborly relationship. That should give us faith and courage to know that going to the ICJ is the best thing to do,” Elrington shamelessly said.
BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 9, 2018– Since Belize received its independence in September 1981, there has been little effort on the part of successive Belize governments to properly educate the country on the Guatemalan claim, and now with less than a year to go before the International Court of Justice referendum, Belizeans will be subjected to the government’s pro-ICJ position.
This was made manifestly clear last Thursday by the remarks made to the media by Foreign Minister Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington following a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Laing Building, during which there was the handing over of a US $250,000 grant from the United States and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to finance the ICJ education program.
Elrington explained that the present administration would be getting some resources to strengthen the process, “so that we can better serve the Belizean people by educating them.”
Elrington was unable to say what would be the budget for the education program, but he indicated that “it is going to be fully funded.”
With nine months to go before the big referendum, Elrington was asked to address the symbolic importance of today’s launch.
Elrington replied, “What I find particularly exciting about this particular launch is the fact that we have for the world to see the support we have for the initiative being given by the premier multilateral institution in the world, the United Nations, who is fully supportive of the initiative between Belize and Guatemala to take the matter to the ICJ, and so is the United States. They support the initiative fully. Not only by words.”
It was pointed out to Elrington that implicitly, the support is really being given with the hope that Belizeans will say yes to the ICJ.
Elrington said, “In my view, and here I am not going to be politically correct. But if you are threatened by a huge neighbor for over a hundred years, and you do not think that that threat should be put behind you once and for all, in a peaceful way, and in the most acceptable way known to humanity, then something has got to be crazy with you.”
Elrington added, “This is not a game we are playing, And this is not an issue where we have a second or third chance. This is one chance. You know how long it took us to get to this point? Almost a hundred years. Are we going to blow it? And is there anybody who is offering any rational, valid reason why we should want to blow it. You got to be crazy, that’s how I see it.
“No, I am not speaking so much as foreign minister, as I am speaking as Wilfred Elrington, who has spent the better part of six decades fighting to have this Belize/Guatemala issue resolved.”
(Before Belize became independent, the dispute was between Guatemala and Great Britain. That’s why it was known as the Anglo-Guatemalan dispute.)
“That was the reason for my getting into politics, and as soon as it is resolved I will get out of politics and give other people a chance,” said Elrington.
Elrington went on to say that “I never thought for one day that there is a better solution than going to the ICJ.”
“… as soon as we got into office in 2008, when we discovered that here was an opportunity to go to the ICJ, we did not hesitate at all; we went straight into the agreement to have the matter resolved at the ICJ …and we feel comforted by the decision, because it is a decision that was taken by the British from in the 1930s, and it is a decision which, as far as I know, every nation in the world support, as well as every multilateral organization, the Commonwealth, CARICOM, SICA, G-77, the ACP, every forum that we belong to believe that this is the right thing to do,” he said.
“What’s the litigation risk for going to the ICJ?”, Elrington was asked.
“Compared to the risk for not going, minimal, insignificant [Guatemala claims up to 51 percent of Belize’s national territory]; what we don’t appreciate and it’s because we have been so fortunate, the United States spends billions if not hundreds of billions of dollars on armaments and defense to protect their country, same with the United Kingdom, same with other countries. We really don’t have any money to spend. But we have managed to live pretty secure lives … we have not had the Guatemalans coming and occupying our country or taking a part of it.
“So we have had a pretty charmed existence up to this point in time. Especially given the fact that they have demonstrated in the clearest of ways their own intentions and desire to have it resolved by the ICJ,” Elrington said.
Elrington said, “So to my mind, that shows good faith on their [Guatemala’s] part, and that given the past experience that we have had with them, where we have lived together pretty well, side by side, with good neighborly relationship. That should give us faith and courage to know that going to the ICJ is the best thing to do.”
When Elrington was challenged again about the education campaign being a pro-ICJ campaign, he replied, “It is an education campaign that cannot help being a pro-ICJ campaign, for the very simple reason that all indications are that that is the wise thing to do. Why would anybody want to offer an anti-ICJ campaign, when in fact we are in such a tenuous position; we have no resources, we have no military, we have no allies and we are being claimed by a huge neighbor with proven military experience and might. So it is inevitable that anybody in their right mind would want to advocate for a yes vote. I don’t think that I am not in my right mind.”
“Can the argument be made that successive governments have neglected to strengthen our defense capabilities?” Elrington was asked.
“No, that argument cannot be made at all, because of the limitations with which our country is faced; we have problems financing our police force. We have problems financing our BDF; we have problems financing our schools; we have problems financing our hospitals, so that we really have limitations…” he said.
(Ed. NOTE: We wonder where the Honorable Wilfred Elrington was when Webster’s 17 Proposals was almost rammed down our throats in 1968; does he not know that the Heads of Agreement caused a riot in Belize in April 1981? Does he not know that almost daily, Guatemalans are illegally entering the Chiquibul and plundering its resources, cutting down our virgin forests, killing our precious, rare and valuable wildlife — animals and birds, and in panning for gold, destroying the ecological balance in our forests? Does the honorable gentleman not know that Guatemalans illegally in our country are razing entire areas of the Chiquibul reserves for farming and other illegal activities? And all this is aside from the fact that the Guatemalan military is preventing Belizeans from accessing Sarstoon Island, which is in Belizean territory, all because their military is so much larger than ours – being just a bully. Sometimes, because of the sheer foolishness that the Honorable Foreign Minister utters, we wonder in which country he lives.)