Headline — 18 August 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
PUP Southern Caucus says “no” to going to the ICJ

The Southern Caucus says that “it is Belizeans on a whole, and Southern Belizeans in particular, who have nothing to gain and everything to lose.”

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Aug. 16, 2018– The entire southern coast and land mass of southern Belize lies directly in the swath of territory in this country that Guatemala is now claiming. The revived Guatemalan claim that will be adjudicated at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) if Belizeans vote “yes” in the ICJ referendum next April 10 to submit the claim for ICJ adjudication, is for an approximate 51 percent of Belize’s national lands.

The Southern Caucus of the Opposition, People’s United Party (PUP), held a meeting last weekend and “resolved that they are firmly against going to the International Court of Justice, (ICJ),” said a media release that was issued on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s government had announced that it would launch an education campaign before Belizeans go to the polls to vote in the ICJ referendum, but that campaign has not taken on a national character and government information has been slow in coming to the mainstream media.

The PUP, for their part, have not articulated a policy as a party on the ICJ matter. While some members of the PUP executive have expressed their personal preference for a “yes” ICJ vote, the PUP’s so-called consultation that was promised a long time ago has still not gotten off the ground. It is against that backdrop that the party’s Southern Caucus met and decided against taking the Guatemalan claim to the ICJ.

Given the implications of the Southern Caucus’ stance on the ICJ referendum, today Amandala attempted to get comments from the Leader of the Opposition, Hon. John Briceño.

Briceño’s Chief of Staff, Stuart Leslie, however, told us that he was busy and could not spare the time to comment on the ICJ position of the party’s Southern Caucus.

Leslie referred us to comments Hon. Briceño had made in April after Guatemalans had registered a “yes” vote on taking their territorial claim to the ICJ. Hon Briceño had made the remarks on his weekly radio and television address.

The remarks, however, did not announce the PUP’s policy position on going to the ICJ, but instead had expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which the government was handling its relations with Guatemala.

In addition, Hon. Briceño had said that he was “convinced” that they would “not be able to get everyone in the PUP to vote yes to the ICJ.”  “I am also convinced that we will not be able to get everyone in the PUP to vote no.

This is why we must take the time to learn the facts and talk with everyone in a respectful way,” he had said.

There has not been any comment from the other caucuses of the PUP in support of, or in opposition to, the position taken by the Southern Caucus.

The PUP Southern Caucus media release said, “The Southern Caucus states that as the area of our country that stands the most to be affected in the event of an unfavorable ruling, it is an imperative that they declare their position.

“The sordid history of the unfounded Guatemalan claim has seen the Guatemalans at one point claiming the whole of Belize, to claiming from the Sarstoon to the Sibun, to at various points claiming from the Sarstoon River up to Monkey River or up to the Moho River. There has been one constant: the Guatemalans want the South, the richest, most beautiful, most pristine part of our country.”

“The PUP Southern Caucus contends that while Guatemala has nothing to lose and only to gain, it is Belizeans on a whole, and Southern Belizeans in particular, who have nothing to gain and everything to lose, because even if someone was able to guarantee a favorable ICJ ruling, no one can guarantee that the Guatemalans will abide by such a ruling. Their record of aggression and lawlessness against their own people is proof enough that they cannot be trusted to adhere to any ruling that they were to find unfavorable,” the release said.

The release added, “We in the PUP’s Southern Caucus refuse to give in to paranoia and fear. If we as a people had done so way back when, we never would have been an independent country today. We refuse to begin that now. For us in the South, we choose to be Belizeans today, tomorrow and forever.”

The release ends saying, “The PUP Southern Caucus concludes that it is in that spirit that they will continue to conduct their own internal consultations in their respective villages and towns.”

The Southern Caucus is comprised of the Toledo East, Toledo West, Stann Creek West, and Dangriga, Sarawee and Hope Creek constituencies. The Opposition PUP has 3 elected area representatives out of the four southern constituencies.

Newly installed Dangriga, Sarawee and Hope Creek standard bearer, Dr. Louis Zabaneh, was present at the meeting.

In addition, the PUP’s National Deputy Leader, Hon. Cordel Hyde, Lake Independence area representative, was also present, as well as PUP National Executive member William “Bill” Lindo, along with the Corozal South East area representative, Hon. Florencio Marin, Jr., and standard bearer for the Orange Walk North, Ramon “Monchi” Cervantes.

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Deshawn Swasey

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