The initiative by the Belize Territorial Volunteers and the Northern Territorial Volunteers to travel to Sarstoon Island this coming Sunday morning is one which is being disapproved of by some very powerful people both at home and abroad. This is because this bold initiative flies in the face of all the skillful, coordinated attempts to frighten the Belizean people into the embrace of the International Court of Justice (ICJ). These are skillful, orchestrated attempts financed and organized by the said very powerful people at home and abroad.
In this matter, I must be studied in my discourse. I respect the constitutional mandate given to this United Democratic Party (UDP) government in free and fair elections. In matters so grave as the Guatemalan claim to Belizean territory, it is the Government of Belize which speaks for the people of Belize at the relevant, regional forum called the Organization of American States (OAS).
When this newspaper began 46 years ago, I wrote nothing which I was not prepared to defend and promote in the streets of Belize. Looking back, I would say that only the exuberance of youth could have excused some of our personal and organizational excesses in those days of UBAD. The government of the People’s United Party (PUP) in place during the years of the United Black Association for Development (UBAD) was a government elected in free and fair elections. In fact, the PUP between 1969 and 1974 (the time of UBAD) had a much higher percentage of seats in the House of Representatives than the present UDP administration controls.
What gave us UBAD the right to speak against such a government, to march against such a government, and to fight against such a government? All I can say is, we believed that our cause was just, and we believed that our arguments were pressing. Our energy was such that the PUP Government of Belize felt the need to charge us with seditious conspiracy in February of 1970. This charge set in motion a series of events which led to the violence of 1972.
Those Belizeans who will travel to Sarstoon Island on Sunday are not youth. Their similarity to the youth of UBAD lies in their willingness to risk detention, incarceration, or even violence on the part of Guatemalan authorities or bandits who know that the Territorial Volunteers have been officially disowned by the UDP Government of Belize.
To a certain extent, the philosophy of the Territorial Volunteers is similar to the non-violent techniques used by the civil rights movement in the United States as led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., between 1955 and 1968. Dr. King had learned a lot of what he knew about non-violence as a political weapon from India’s iconic Mahatma Gandhi. To the best of my knowledge, the Territorial Volunteers are not taking any arms to defend themselves. They were hoping for protection from the armed forces of Belize, but that protection is not forthcoming.
I would not go so far as to say the Territorial Volunteers are offering up themselves as sacrificial lambs, but we can say that they are taking their patriotic love for Belize to a level higher than that of the masses of the Belizean people. Their expedition to Sarstoon Island cannot be considered anything other than heroic.
The Government of Belize will do their best to project Sunday’s expedition as foolhardy. In this newspaper’s editorial on Tuesday, we described the expedition as “adventurist.” But, the fact of the matter is that all of us born Belizeans will benefit in some way from this expedition. The world will know after Sunday that there are Belizeans who are willing to stand for The Jewel and face the aggressor Guatemala.
In the editorial we mentioned in the previous paragraph, we also remarked that one would really have liked to see demonstrations of solidarity taking place in all of Belize’s cities and towns simultaneously with the BTV/NTV boat ride from Barranco to Sarstoon Island. Remember, when Gandhi, whom Winston Churchill disrespectfully described as a “half-naked fakir,” marched to the sea, it was as if all of India marched with him.
The main reason there will be no mass demonstrations to support the courageous Territorial Volunteers is because the majority of the adult citizens of Belize are controlled by the two major political parties – the ruling UDP and the Opposition PUP. We have told you that the UDP is very much opposed to the Sarstoon Island expedition. The Opposition PUP, which is holding what they call a public consultation nearby in Big Falls, Toledo, this very Sunday, August 16, has not committed its resources or its members/supporters to the cause of the Territorial Volunteers.
So, this is where a huge question surrounds the expedition to Sarstoon Island. In a country of 350,000 people, why is it that only a hundred or more will travel from Barranco to the Sarstoon? Why is it that those Belizeans who cannot make the trip have not committed themselves to staging some form of solidarity protest? Surely it cannot be that all the people of Belize are cowards and only the Territorial Volunteers are brave. For sure not all the people of Belize are controlled by the UDP and the PUP.
Well, the mobilization and transportation of masses of people is always a major logistical challenge. But, there is much more. Fundamentally, the Belizean people are ignorant of the real nature of the Guatemalan issue. The schools of Belize have not taught Belizean children about the hostile, aggressive claim. Not only have the schools never done so, there is absolutely no indication that they ever intend so to do. If you could answer the question why Belizean children have never been taught about the Guatemalan claim to Belize, you would come a long way towards understanding why, when the Territorial Volunteers travel from Barranco to Sarstoon Island on Sunday morning, August 16, young Belizeans will be watching American television or practicing for September Carnival.
Power to the people. Remember Danny. Fight for Belize.