According to an article by Mike Rudon, Sr., in last weekend’s issue of The Reporter, the Government of Belize has prepared for the October 6, 2013 vote on whether to go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or not, by putting together a Referendum Unit coordinated by Ambassadors H.E. James Murphy and H.E. Stuart Leslie. The Referendum Unit has, in turn, organized a Referendum Commission “with representation from all sectors and pertinent bodies across the board, including both political mass parties, the unions, the churches, business, student and community organizations.”
A vote will be held simultaneously in Belize and Guatemala on October 6 this year, and both the Belize and Guatemala referenda must have a turnout of 60 percent or more of registered voters in order for there to be a valid majority decision to go or not to go to the ICJ. A majority of both Belizeans and Guatemalans must vote yes for the ICJ, or the process will be halted.
Mr. Rudon’s article did not provide any names where the composition of the Referendum Commission is concerned.
Before the official education process for the October polls began this month, Prime Minister Dean Barrow (UDP) and former Prime Minister Said Musa (PUP) had been the biggest names to go on record as supporting a “yes” vote for the ICJ.
About four weeks ago, an activist organization called the Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) held a press conference and issued a detailed press release to declare and emphasize their “no” position on the ICJ matter. Around the same time, The Reporter had editorialized with a strong “yes” for the ICJ choice.
From a few months ago it became obvious that there was a grassroots anti-ICJ feeling inside the Opposition PUP, which, under Leader Hon. Francis Fonseca, has not yet declared a party position on the ICJ. The grassroots feeling of negativity featured talk show hosts on the PUP radio station who have kept saying that they are expressing their personal opinions and not those of the party. What that really means, it is not our responsibility to decipher. Whatever, whatever.
The PUP has five Deputy Leaders. Two of them, Mike Espat and Julius Espat, have been saying “no” to anyone who wants to listen. Carolyn Trench-Sandiford and Florencio Marin, Jr., have been hedging their bets. And Dolores Balderamos-Garcia is believed to be going “yes”.
The principal reason we decided to write this editorial is we want to say that at some point the people of Belize will become very interested in the ICJ vote, whereas we think it will never create that kind of buzz amongst the masses of the Guatemalan people, even though Guatemalans are taught in their schools that Belize belongs to Guatemala, and they know that this Belize claim is included in the Guatemala constitution. It will be easier in Belize than in Guatemala, we think, for the people in charge of the polls to get a 60% turnout.
The transnational oil companies want this ancient dispute to be resolved, and they really don’t care how it is done, as long as both parties, Belize and Guatemala, agree to the solution. For Belizeans, the problem is that this dispute was a British matter which was dumped into our Belizean laps at independence in 1981, although Guatemala threats had, from time to time, intimidated Belizeans from back in the colonial days of the 1940s.
Our leaders in 1981 believed that political independence was so important they were willing to become independent without a solution to the claim and without a defence guarantee, and even under a state of emergency. Now, the dispute surfaces again, 31 years after independence, and the British, who could have addressed this matter, are leading voices amongst those who say they are our friends and who are urging us to go to the ICJ.
It is a rough world out there, and we Belizeans are a small and relatively weak nation. We do have real friends in the region, such as the Caribbean countries, Cuba, Chavez’s Venezuela, and, we hope, Mexico. The thing is the diplomacy is becoming complicated, and we lost our Maximum Leader, Hon. Philip Goldson, more than ten years ago. No one else has his stature where the Guatemalan issue is concerned.
From Partridge Street, we do have to let you know that COLA does not speak for us. Where this newspaper is concerned, COLA stopped speaking for Kremandala in January of 2010. We share many of COLA’s views, but COLA does not speak for us. This is a technical point, but the issue is a delicate one. We therefore reserve our rights and our options.