“In 1979, 1984, and 1998, we were confident that we represented 4 percent of Belize’s voters, and we believed that that 4 percent could affect the election results materially. We are not as confident about next Wednesday’s municipals for two reasons. In the first instance, we are not certain to what extent the Belize Progressive Party (BPP) will distract our 4 percent. And, in the second instance, we’re not sure how much influence we have on 2018’s younger, ‘digitized’ Belizean voters.”
– from the Editorial of THE AMANDALA of Sunday, March 4, 2018, entitled “LET’S DO THIS”.
The treasonous practice, by both political parties, of granting citizenship to Guatemalans—a bold-faced violation of the Belize Constitution, has finally caught up with us. On April 10, 2019 Belize will go to a referendum to decide on the ICJ matter and it will go to said referendum with a voters’ list that could include a significant percentage (5.8%) of Guatemalan-born Belizeans. The number of Guatemalan-born Belizeans on the voters’ list represents a significant bloc of voters that can “affect the [referendum] results materially”; to borrow a phrase from the Amandala.
It must now be clear to all Belizeans, that we have placed ourselves in quite a pickle because of the lust for power by the political class. But the average citizen is not without blame here. In fact many, in support of “their party,” assisted the politicians with the nationality process. Many forged documents; many corrupted JPs whose signatures were critical to the process; and many provided false references to show that those Guatemalans were deserving of our citizenship. In all this there were to be no Belizean heroes. No one stood up and alerted the Belizean people of the Trojan horses being planted. No one fought for Belize. Perhaps those public officers knew what the outcome would be: their firing and our acceptance of open bribes (ham, turkey, land, jobs, scholarships, etc., etc.).
Quite interestingly, at his press conference on May 16, 2018 the PM indicated that Guatemala has no formal renunciation process for its citizens. In practical terms that means that once you are born in Guatemala you remain a Guatemalan for life. It certainly means that those Guatemalans who were given Belizean citizenship were at the material time still citizens of a country that does not recognize the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Belize. An obscene violation of the Constitution!
The question remains then, and sadly I did not hear any member of the media pose it to the PM, if he knew that Guatemala does not allow for renunciation of its citizenship, how come he never enforced the constitutional ban? And how come he has not taken any measure to revoke those citizenships that have been unconstitutionally granted? Belizeans, I am sure, can still remember the mayhem created at the Immigration Department by Penner, and they must not forget the confessions of former Director of Immigration, Ruth Meighan, when she said, before the Senate Inquiry, that Penner’s deeds may have affected the outcome of the 2012 elections.
The 2010 census recorded a total of 18,883 Guatemalans as part of our population. What the census did not capture, however, are those born Belizeans who are of Guatemalan parentage. My limited time in politics taught me that foreign-born Belizeans are eternally grateful to the Party that “gave” them their “papeles”. Such loyalty is not constrained to the naturalized immigrants alone; it often extends to their children who are later born here. My point is that the sphere of influence of the 5.8% of the Guatemalan-born population referred to above could extend even further than one at first imagines. Even in its initial form, the depth of the Guatemalan influence on any poll could easily exceed that of Kremandala’s 4% by almost 2 percentage points!
Recently, in a television interview, the Chief Elections Officer advised that her department cannot disenfranchise any person who presents the proper Belizean documentation that allows them to be registered as a voter in Belize. In other words, notwithstanding the discoveries of the Senate Inquiry and the confessions of Ruth Meighan, nothing has been done to purge those Guatemalans from the list of citizens of Belize. The Chief Elections Officer’s hands are thus tied. This means then, that Guatemalans with Belizean citizenship will be able to vote in the upcoming referendum on the ICJ. Again, the illegal granting of citizenship to Guatemalans could present a possible 5.8% swing in favour of the yes vote!
In light of the declarations by the Chief Elections Officer, many Belizeans have put forward suggestions on how to ensure that this particular category of Belizeans do not vote in the upcoming referendum. These suggestions vary in both tenor and intensity; however, I caution that we as a country, having put ourselves in this here dilemma, must be very, very careful. I have made the point ad nauseam that citizen protection has always been used as a pretext for extra-territorial military action. If naturalized Belizeans of Guatemalan origin are seen to be mistreated in any systemic way by Belize (whether by us the people or by the government), Guatemala would have found its pretext for extra-territorial actions.
But all is not lost. We as a people can take swift action to deal with this very vexing problem. I would suggest that as a people we should endeavour to do the following:
1. Suspend, with immediate effect, any further granting of citizenship as well as permanent residency to Guatemalans. We need a public commitment from both political parties that this unconstitutional practice will cease forthwith.
2. Amend the Constitution to proscribe any naturalized citizen from participating in any referendum related to the territory of Belize and from holding critical posts such as Governor General, Member of Parliament, head of any of the security forces, heads of departments, etc. Yes, we would have created two classes of citizens; those born here and those naturalized, but our self-preservation requires it. As you know, if you are not born in the USA you cannot run for the office of the President even if you have been naturalized as a citizen. And no, I am not xenophobic!
3. Commence the formulation and, thereafter, adopt a sound immigration policy, the central plank of which must be the preservation of the state. I heard recently that this may already be in the works. We must ensure that it serves our interests rather than that of the International Organization for Migration, which I believe is funding this exercise.
4. Postpone the referendum until the above has been achieved. Guatemala has been allowed to change its step in relation to their obligations under the Compromis and; it has changed, unilaterally, its own referendum date on several occasions. It then cannot complain if we were to now do so.
Once more, I remind your readers that the most critical duty of any government is the preservation of the state. The illegal granting of citizenship to Guatemalans in violation of our constitution is only one of the myriad of threats to the preservation of the nation of Belize. Perhaps the second biggest threat to our survival has been our “fire and forget” approach to governance. We vote and thereafter we believe our work is done. Not so! Nationhood requires perpetual engagement and vigilance. Our failure in both these areas have us now heading to a referendum that could possibly see the dismemberment of Belize and we are unsure where lies the allegiance of a significant 5.8% of our citizens.
Major Lloyd Jones