Features — 12 February 2009 — by Compton Fairweather
For many weeks now Belizeans have been faced with the episode at Jalacte wherein a Guatemalan “gentleman” by the name of Leonel Arellanos has held his government and its military and our government and its military at bay by refusing to remove (or allow to be moved peacefully) his illegally constructed and placed structure on our national territory.
This is an insult to our national dignity; many people have wondered and voiced out loud what the British Government would have done if they were in charge. While we will never know what the British would have done, I can share with you what they did do 135 years ago and which was reported in Times of London 46 years ago, on January 29, 1962.
“The drunken governor of the Guatemalan seaport of San Jose de Guatemala flogged the local British Consul. It led to a post–Palmerston display of British gunboat diplomacy.
On September 4, 1874 HMS REPULSE (flagship) and three cruisers under Rear Admiral A. Cochrane landed 100 bluejackets and 100 marines armed with carbines and cutlasses on Guatemalan soil. They marched to the main square of the offending town watched by sullen Guatemalan troops, who received them reluctantly with military honours under the guns of the British fleet in the bay.
The “capitano del puerto” was then made to hoist the Union Jack which was saluted by the Guatemalan officers and troops as well as the British. Then with the band playing patriotic tunes, Admiral Cochrane marched his men down to the pier and embarked. Following this formal apology Guatemala also paid damages to the flogged consul.”
From my further research, I found that the sum paid was £50,000, the exact amount the British agreed to give the Guatemalans ten years earlier to begin the construction of the “easiest communication route” between our two countries as specified in Article 7 of the 1859 Boundary Treaty.
(Ed. NOTE: Mr. Fairweather is the former president of the British Honduras Freedom Committee of New York. He is an electronics engineer who now runs a business on New Road in Belize City.)
ON THIS DAY 13TH FEBRUARY, 42 YEARS AGO
B.H. Freedom Committee Tells Webster, No Compromise On B.H. Sovereignty
NEW YORK, February 13:
A delegation of the British Honduras Freedom Committee, led by its President, Mr. Compton Fairweather, today met Mediator Bethuel Matthew Webster, at the Conference Room of the New York Bar Association at 42 West 44th Street, and outlined the Freedom Committee’s stand on B.H. sovereignty, on which there could be no compromise.
The meeting was arranged in response to a letter from Mr. Fairweather, on behalf of the Committee, which said in part: “in view of the lapse of time without any information as to the progress of the mediation of this important matter, the Freedom Committee is extremely concerned. We therefore are asking if you are in a position to say when the release of your proposals may be reasonably expected.”
In his reply, Mr. Webster said in part; “The answer to the question put to me in the last sentence of your letter is that I am not in a position to say when the release of my proposals may be expected.
“I want to say, however, in response to your letter, that I should be glad to meet with you and other officers and advisers of the British Honduras Freedom Committee at a convenient time.”
At the meeting, Mr. Webster outlined his desire to hear from any group, and stated he is open to the opinions of all. His primary function as mediator he said, is not to decide the dispute but to find a solution for it.