BELIZE CITY, Tues. May 7, 2019– On December 8, 2008, nearly eleven years ago, in Washington, USA, at the headquarters of the Organization of American States, the governments of Belize and Guatemala signed an agreement, called a Special Agreement, or compromis, to submit Guatemala’s territorial, insular and maritime claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), subject to the approval of the peoples of both countries.
The countries agreed to hold referendums simultaneously, on the same day, at which referendums the question would be put to their peoples. Attempts to hold the referendums on the same day failed and Belize, acting on the request of Guatemala, allowed that country to go ahead and hold its referendum, which it did, on April 15, 2018. Guatemalans voted overwhelmingly to submit their claim to the ICJ.
Tomorrow, May 8, 2019, Belizeans will decide if they agree to go to the ICJ. Belizeans have agonized over the question for a long time, and today, just hours before they go to the polls, many are still not sure if they will vote YES, or if they will vote NO. There is no confusion in the minds of Belizeans about what YES means, and what NO means – they both mean NO GUATEMALA. The question is, which is best for Belize.
At seven in the morning, tomorrow, May 8th, polling stations will be opened across the country, in thirty-one constituencies, from the Hondo to the Sarstoon, from Benque Viejo to Halfmoon. The Elections and Boundaries Department says that 148,500 persons have registered and those who turn up at the polling stations will be given a ballot with the question:
“Do you agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize relating to land and insular territories and to any maritime areas pertaining to these territories should be submitted to the International Court of Justice for final settlement and that it determine finally the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of the Parties?”
There will be two answers on the ballot: YES, and NO. If you believe that the best course for Belize is to go to the ICJ, place your mark in the box beside the word, YES. If you believe that the best course for Belize is to reject the ICJ solution, place your mark in the box with the word, NO.
Chief Elections Officer, Ms. Josephine Tamai told the press that the results of the referendum could be known as early as midnight on May 8th. A simple majority will decide the outcome. Belize’s referendum law had a requirement of 60% voter turnout, but after Guatemala complained the referendum law was changed to a simple majority.
Chief Elections Officer Tamai said that they would not be reporting on the voting by constituency, electoral division. Tamai explained that the voting is for the entire country, so they will confine themselves to compiling the totals for the YES and for the NO. Tamai said her department will set up a media center at the Biltmore Hotel, and as the Returning Officers relay the information to them, they will be checking it and posting it to the nation at intervals.