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ICJ maybe, but now is not the time

Dear Comrade Editor,

I write in response to Assad Shoman’s Letter to the Editor of December 6th, 2016, “Now is the Time”, published in the Amandala of Sunday, December 11th, 2016, in which he put forward a position for submitting the Guatemalan Claim to the ICJ for a determination “once and for all”; and in response to those Belizeans who maintain that we should not submit the Guatemalan Claim to half our territory to the ICJ, as we could possibly lose what we presently own and enjoy as a result of risks inherent in such litigation.

I will address Assad’s letter first. Assuming that I agree with the position of submitting the Claim to the ICJ, I humbly submit that “Now is Not the Time” to do so. This is so, among many other things (social, political, economic) that will require further elaboration, as the actions of our Foreign Minister to date, except maybe for his grudgingly delivered address to the UN General Assembly earlier this year, inspire very little confidence in the Belizean people that we are being wholeheartedly and vigorously represented at the diplomatic level with Guatemala. His condescending and deprecating attitude towards Belizeans generally, as to their supposed ignorance on this issue, which he mocks every opportunity he gets with a supposed air of intellectual superiority, to my mind has guaranteed a “No” vote in the present circumstances in a referendum on taking this issue to the ICJ.

Secondly, it is difficult to understand how it is that the situation in Guatemala “with a government of a military-dominated party in power …” “makes it more urgent than ever to end this claim once and for all” than when military dictators were directly running the country, a couple of whom were earnestly intent on invading Belize militarily. Stopping Guatemala from “taking” the Sarstoon and eventually “eating the Monkey” is much more dependent on our resolve and abilities as a people to defend our country through physical, diplomatic and other means, than any order from the ICJ could ever accomplish against any belligerent Guatemalan government.

Turning to those who say we should not go to the ICJ because of litigation risks, the question must be asked: “Are these people admitting to the possibility of Guatemala actually having a legitimate case that could see her gain/retrieve some territory that we presently possess?” This to my mind would be the most consequential of such risks. If the answer to this question is a definite “No”, (an answer that is yet to be shared with the Belizean people), then there should not be a problem in taking the issue to the ICJ.

On the other hand, however, if there are other litigation risks that cannot be completely eliminated (and we should be told what these risks are), then perhaps we may have to take our chances with as many “governments of military-dominated parties” as may exist in Guatemala, and perhaps even with new military dictators; we should with a judicial process that may not be able to guarantee our territorial integrity.

Mark A. Usher Sr.

Belize City,
December 13, 2016

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