Features — 22 February 2013 — by Janus

At the risk of offending some of my compatriots, I will take issue with the statement that the Guatemalan claim is unfounded. We reject the claim because it can’t be made against Belize. Guatemala has no claim against Belize but, their claim is founded on their assertion that they are the successors of Spain, which once owned the territory that now belongs to our country. The claim does exist, and it will not go away until it is settled.

Guatemala should have dropped her claim when Belize became an independent nation state. The territory originally claimed, being administered by Great Britain as a colony, is now an independent country. It has not dropped its claim. Perhaps, it cannot. That is a consideration that Belizeans might take into account when we vote.

Left out of my column of last Sunday’s edition were the names of the current members of the International Court of Justice. I think it is important to have this information, which should allay our fears that they can be influenced in their judgment by other considerations besides the facts of the “claim.” They are listed below: –

1. Hisashi Owada (Japan)
2. Ronny Abraham (France)
3. Kenneth Keith (New Zealand)
4. Mohamed Bennoura (Morocco)
5. Leonid Shetnikiv (Russian Federation)
6. Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf (Somalia)
7. Antonio Augusto Cancalo Triadalc (Brazil)
8. Christopher Greenwood (Great Britain)
9. Xue Harquin (China)
10. John E. Donoghue (United States of America)
11. Jula Sebrtinde (Uganda)
12. Georgio Gaja (Italy)
13. Dalvier Ghandari (India)

Many of our citizens may have already made up their minds about their vote on the referendum, based on the information they already have, but it will do them no harm to consider all the information available. For instance, are you aware that there is a very powerful element in Guatemala, which is strongly opposed to submitting its claim for adjudication? The prestigious Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre speaks for them. They don’t want the claim to be settled by adjudication. Ask youself why? Could it be that unlike a certain segment of our population, they think that Guatemala has much to lose? Perhaps. They also have much to gain, i.e. the respect and goodwill of the international community.

So. It seems that a segment of our Belizean society, including a number of nationalistic and patriotic citizens, are in agreement, for different reasons, with the right wing element of the Guatemalan population.

Now, let us consider these four possible scenarios in the voting on the referendum, viz: –
1. Both Belize and Guatemala vote “yes.”
2. Both Belize and Guatemala vote “no.”
3. Guatemala votes “yes” and Belize votes “no.”
4. Belize votes “yes” and Guatemala votes “no.”

Which of these scenarios do you think would be in the best interests of our country?

The death penalty

Over the years I have written five essays on this subject. During that time, the incidence of murder in Belize has risen annually to the point where we are vying for the title of being the country with the highest per capita rate in the world. The country with the lowest rate is Singapore. In fact, the country with the lowest crime rate is, also, Singapore. They have both the death penalty for murder and corporal punishment for a number of lesser crimes, such as rape.

Studies of developed countries by their experts find that there is no correlation between the imposition of the death penalty and the rate of murder, which means that in those countries the death penalty is not a deterrent. Murderers are not more fearless in Europe and North America than they are in the countries that have the death penalty and know from experience that there is indeed a correlation between the two. Why is there a difference between the two? Why is there a difference between the findings of the studies and knowledge gained from experience? I suggest it is because the majority of murders in the countries studied were crimes of passion and that was not the motive for murder in the countries not studied. It most definitely is not so in Belize.

Most of the murders in Belize are drug and/or gang-related. They are calculated and cold-bloodied. The killers are not deterred by a fear of the consequences of their acts. Many of these murders can aptly be described as wanton and senseless. Why should the killers fear any penalty, when so far most of the ones brought to trial are acquitted or ruled nolle prosequi? Here, it must be remarked that criminal justice has ceased to exist for gang members who kill, because the gangs have the power to terrify witnesses and juries. But, that is another matter. It is one that our government has been unable to address, effectively, up to the present.

Still, “men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive”. Everyone fears to die, especially on the scaffold. The Government of Belize has embarked on several initiatives to reduce the crime rate, especially the incidence of murder. They have all failed to reduce the trend, or even, to maintain the levels already reached. One of these initiatives, Restore Belize, will succeed in the long term. We are more concerned about the short term. Capital punishment will have an immediate effect because, the death penalty absolutely deters.

The people of the twin towns of San Ignacio and Santa Elena rose up as a single body and demanded that government re-institute the death penalty. They are convinced that that is the only way to reduce the murder rate. I am too and, so do the majority of Belizeans. There should be a public opinion poll to confirm or reject this view. Regardless. The Foreign Minister told a meeting of Cayoans that the international community on whom we rely for aid, in different areas of our national life, would strongly disapprove of this action. Is the international community so unreasonable that they are unable to understand that the studies were refer to, do not apply to the circumstances we have and are experiencing, presently? Is the international community so impervious to reason, as to demand that our government abide by the findings of studies which most of us agree do not apply to our country?

I have found from experience that the best way to approach a difficult problem is to reduce it to the simplest terms. That was how Einstein discovered his great formula E=mc2. Here is my formula for reconciling murder and capital punishment.

In every instance that someone is killed, there is some benefit that the murderer has to have: personal satisfaction, revenge, money, pride, prestige, status or something that he cannot do without. The victim has to die, so that the murderer might live. The citizens of San Ignacio and Santa Elena demand, and the majority of Belizeans agree, that the murderer should die, in order that the lives of many prospective victims might be saved, and we will enjoy once more a better quality of life.

I would like to suggest that that the least our government can do, is to re-impose the death penalty for an experimental period of one year, which will prove conclusively, that what applies to First World countries does not apply to the countries of the Third World.

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