Features — 24 November 2018 — by Sidley Leslie
To be, or not to be?

The famous Renaissance French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist, René Descartes, seeking to confirm his own existence to himself, stated, “Cogito, ergo sum. (I think, therefore I am.)” Another famous quote of his is “…it is a mark of prudence never to place our complete trust in those who have deceived us even once.”  I find these words to be very relevant to consider in arriving at the decision we will be called upon to make on 10th April, 2019. Now let’s proceed with the topic of this article.

As the government’s referendum education campaign to influence a “yes to the ICJ” vote continues to escalate, much emphasis has been placed on teaching voters the facts. The ostensible assumption  implied by proponents of the Government’s position is that once we are sufficiently informed of the historical facts, our only rational choice will then be to agree to take the territorial differendum with Guatemala to the International Court of Justice, using the Special Agreement  [compromise] as the court’s directive in obtaining a final and binding resolution. Let us therefore consider the nature and significance of “facts.”

Facts, from a temporal prospective, may be classified and divided into three types, past [historical], present [current], and future or extrapolated.  Historical facts are events which have already occurred for which archival evidence exists to prove their authenticity. Examples of these are the 1859 Treaty, the 2005 signing of the Confidence Building Measures document by Belize, the statement by Guatemala in its constitution of 1945 that British Honduras was its twenty-third department and the 2008 Special Agreement signed  by Belize and Guatemala.

Both historical and present facts are the solid evidence base that we utilize to deduce what we project the future facts will be. Here we need to make a very important distinction between facts based on objective and logical conclusions derived from the empirical evidence of the actual and relevant occurrences [a posteriori], and those alternative facts resulting from subjective and illogical conclusions engendered from the bias of their originator.

Then there is the issue of logical fallacies. These have been described as an error in reasoning or a false assumption that might sound impressive but proves absolutely nothing. Sometimes they are completely unintentional, but more often than not they are used by people during debates, arguments or presentations to mislead you into thinking, acting or behaving in a certain way.

Since we cannot change the past or definitively quantify the present, because it is constantly in a state of transition and  the moment we seek to describe it, our synopsis may morph into the immutable past, the only type of facts that we can truly influence are those that lie in the future. Hence these are the most important facts that we need to correctly assess, for they will invariably determine our future status. The problem here, however, is that those who seek to deceive us often employ non-sequiturs to justify their conclusions, specifically, historical and current facts out of context with the veracity of the future facts that they are contending  will occur.

A case in point is the argument made by the “yes to the ICJ” proponents that the 1859 Treaty will be our iron-clad defense against Guatemala’s land-grabbing attempt at the ICJ. The truth is that the moment we vote “yes”, the 1859 Treaty will be rendered invalid, if it had not been so rendered already by the alleged joint statement by both countries dissolving the international boundary in 1992.

Whatever the case may be, the treaty will still be invalidated because under law, for a treaty to remain in effect at least one party to the treaty must always remain in adherence to what the treaty had established. Guatemala, from 1945 when they declared Belize their twenty-third department had, by so doing, expressed their non-adherence to the treaty and the minute that we agree to empower the ICJ to change our boundaries with Guatemala [by voting “yes” in the referendum], we will have also expressed our non-adherence to the unchangeable international boundaries  the 1859 Treaty had established.

Interestingly, the erudite Dr. Assad Shoman, who has now assumed his post on the Government’s “yes to the ICJ” crusade, recently opined at the first UB Town Hall session that the lawyer who informed us of this self-evident fact of law should never have done so. There are two conclusions we can arrive at to justify his statement. Either the lawyer did not remain silent like his colleagues because he has not yet been read his rights, or his contention is simply another example of the many “factoids” we so love to repeat. You be the judge.

Another example is their contention that since Guatemala has absolutely no legally valid claim against Belizean territory, the court will simply solidify our present “imaginary borders” with Guatemala which will then force them to respect our borders.

In 1981 when we achieved independence, this may have been true. Now, however, because of the egregious blunders committed by our leaders since then and especially [a priori] since we signed the 2008 Special Agreement accepting liability for Guatemala’s claim against the Brits, while simultaneously empowering the ICJ judges to cede our territory and sovereignty  to our peace-loving neighbor, we have seriously compromised the strength of our defense.

Consider this historical fact.  In 1863 the Brits agreed to pay 50,000 pounds sterling to Guatemala, in compensation for their obligation under Article VII of the 1859 Treaty. Since Guatemala, because of internal problems, was unable to ratify the codicil in the time stipulated, the Brits refused to make the proffered payment when Guatemala accepted the offer a year later. Does Guatemala have a legal claim against them [now Belize] for having reneged?

Guatemala certainly thinks so. In 1936 Guatemala made the following proposal to the British, “Guatemala proposes to approve the demarcation of the frontier with Belize, made unilaterally by Great Britain. In exchange, the government of Great Britain would pay Guatemala the sum of 50,000 pounds sterling plus interest at four percent annually as of the date the 1859 Treaty was entered into. Great Britain would grant a strip of land south of Belize located at the same latitude as Punta Gorda, including the Zapotillo Cayes.”

Also, of relevance here is the following excerpt from quora, “The Law Offices of Britain in 1878 reported that indeed Guatemala claimed territory occupied by the British prior to the Convention of 1859 and that if it weren’t for some inducement Guatemala would never have consented to Article I of that Convention; that Article 7 was, in fact, the fine paid to secure that consent; and finally that the Convention of 1863 did not purport, in terms, to be of itself a satisfaction of the obligation created by Article 7.”

Regardless of what the real truth may be on why Article Seven was added to the 1859 Treaty or whether or not the Guatemalan claim of land cession can be sustained at the court, the fact remains that it was an inducement designed to persuade Guatemala to endorse the treaty after they had refused to sign the first draft. Now if someone claims that you owe him and you proceed to formally offer him payment, but then find an excuse not to pay, does this offer, of itself [ipso facto], not substantiate the legal validity of his claim?

Sadly, if we vote to go to the ICJ under the terms of reference contained in the Special Agreement we will be forced to argue the Brits’ case against Guatemala. This constitutes our greatest risk of losing territory at the ICJ to Guatemala. In the 2001 Legal Opinion the eminently qualified luminaries stated, “The allegation of Britain’s non-performance of that Article relates only to the period of Britain’s rule in British Honduras. Any responsibility of Britain that may have arisen during that period is Britain’s alone and cannot have devolved upon Belize. Therefore, it is not for Belize to argue Britain’s case …”

You should also be aware that the trap set by the “any and all legal claims” contained in the Special Agreement, is not only limited to Belize being forced to assume responsibility for the Brits’ obligation to Guatemala, but also for any other argument the court may consider relevant, including any disclosed or undisclosed mutual agreements or concessions made by Belize to Guatemala. This could expose us to unknown risks and cost countless millions of dollars in legal fees and years of unending litigation. And even worse, the court will also be asked to determine Guatemala’s rights over our sovereignty.

Now Guatemala has openly declared that they will continue to exercise their sovereignty over the Sarstoon until the dispute is settled. The GAF has repeatedly intercepted those who try to traverse the river telling them to respect the protocol. While the Government has denied having endorsed a protocol, well-known senior politician, Don Hector Silva, has recently stated on national television that there is indeed a protocol.

He said that the protocol is that visitors must check in with the forward operating base who will then telephone the GAF [Guatemalan Armed Forces] and beg them permission for the visitors to enter the river! The GAF, if they entertain the supplication, will then use their gun boats to escort them to their destination thru what was once Belizean territorial waters. If this is true one cannot help but wonder what other undisclosed concessions Belize has made to Guatemala which may come to haunt us if we go to the ICJ.

Turning to the present facts, there is compelling historical evidence that the most prominent “Friends of Belize” are really in the Guatemalan camp on this issue. For example, all the proposed solutions made to date to solve the dispute, including the OAS-drafted 2008 Special Agreement signed in Washington, were crafted exclusively in favor of Guatemala, and the OAS has been, and continues to be, ominously silent in the face of the Guatemalan Armed Forces’ flagrant violation of our territorial integrity in the Sarstoon. Interestingly, with very few exceptions, so has our Government; one might justifiably consider this to be chillingly portentous.

Realistically, however, it is not at all surprising that the United States supports Guatemala in this dispute. Guatemala is their greatest ally and best friend in our region. Their relationship with the USA is comparable to the one that exists between Israel and the United States in the Middle East. Additionally  there are the reported promises with respect to British Honduras which the Kennedy administration  had made to Guatemalan President Ydigoras Fuentes in return for Guatemala’s support for the April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion by Cuban exiles. And this may presently be even truer since the “America First” president took office.

The following is a quote taken from GlobalSecurity.org,” In 1965 Britain and Guatemala agreed to have a United States lawyer, appointed by President Lyndon Johnson, mediate the dispute. The lawyer’s draft treaty proposed giving Guatemala so much control over the newly independent country, including internal security, defense, and external affairs, that Belize would have become more dependent on Guatemala than it was already on Britain. The United States supported the proposals.”

And the following is taken from a seminal background and study of the Special Agreement by Gustavo Adolfo Orellana Portillo of Guatemala, “Following up on the aforementioned resolution issued by the UN General Assembly, an effort was made in 1977 by the governments of Guatemala and Great Britain to reach a settlement that included an area of continental territory south of Belize for Guatemala, as necessary compensation so that Belize’s forthcoming independence was recognized. The options that were analyzed, considered as base for the boundary-line south of Belize: in Guatemala’s view, Monkey River, meaning all of Toledo District; and in Great Britain’s view, Moho River, at the level of Punta Gorda.”

The aforementioned French philosopher René Descartes also stated something which is quite applicable in ascertaining the true intentions of our “friends”: “To know what people really think, pay attention to what they do, rather than what they say.” But what is the significance of these present facts?

Well, according to well-known television co-host of the KREM Sunday Review, Mr. Bill Lindo, Lord Michael Ashcroft had confronted the former Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. Manuel Esquivel, asserting that he is British and he [Hon. Esquivel] should understand that what the British want, the British get! He further relates that Dr. Esquivel then proceeded to show the good Lord Ashcroft the door [respect to my former math and physics teacher at SJC]. I think this incident underscores the significance of these present before-mentioned facts.

The truth is that we would never have attained our independence with full sovereignty and territorial integrity if it had been solely left to the British and the Americans. As was shown before [there are Belizeans still alive who can also testify to these facts], the British wanted to give Guatemala the southern portion of Belize and the Americans wanted to make Belize a subservient satellite of Guatemala.

The fact is that this position of our “friends” with respect to Belize’s future has not changed, and if we go to the ICJ with this cunningly OAS-drafted Special Agreement and receive an unfavorable judgment, which under these circumstances is highly probable, the consequence will  be worse than it would have been had we complied with the British desire to give the southern portion of our country to Guatemala or had we accepted the American-drafted Webster Proposals or even the 1981 Heads of Agreement.

So the present facts are that the United States, Great Britain and Israel, which was the only country besides Guatemala that voted against our independence at the United Nations, all favor Guatemala on this issue. And please do not underestimate the power and influence of God’s “chosen.” One of the best kept secrets of modern times is the power and influence of the Rothschild Jews. They control and print the world’s money supply through their global network of Central Banks existing in all but one or two countries on earth. It has even been reported that they also orchestrate historical events on a global scale. Need I say more? Still, I am sure that you will at least agree that he who pays the piper calls the tune?

Now why do you suppose the Guatemalans, and their handlers, covet the southern half of Belize? Even without factoring in the pristine beauty of this area, it is common knowledge that two tectonic plates of the earth meet in this area. This occurrence is considered geologically indicative of the probable existence of large petroleum deposits in the surrounding region. Additionally, it is claimed that there are significant deposits of gold and other valuable mineral deposits, including uranium, in this part of Belize.

I know persons who have personal knowledge of these facts. Why do you think the Guatemalans are often found panning for gold in this area? It is obviously because they are finding it! Ask my old high school classmate Mr. Francis Gegg. This stands to reason as the Maya Mountains are an ancient mountain range eroded through eons to the depth where precious minerals are usually found.

Another important fact to consider is the matter of trust in our present leaders. So far their faulty judgment has all but depleted our foreign reserves and left us on the verge of bankruptcy by losing every case they had assured us we would win at the international courts. Even more pointedly, can we confidently follow leaders who have deceptively empowered a set of foreign [non- Belizean] judges to cede our territory and sovereignty to Guatemala! Herein lies the relevance of the aforementioned quote from René Descartes, “…it is a mark of prudence never to place our complete trust in those who have deceived us even once.”

Then there is the alleged superlative competence of the “A-Team” Guatemala [with the help of her friends] has reputedly identified to argue their case at the ICJ. Even if the playing field was level, and it is certainly not since everything favors Guatemala, we would indeed be imprudent to risk this confrontation when we are not really obliged to do so and there are other comparatively risk-free ways to proceed.

Furthermore, even if we vote “Yes” and against all odds receive a favorable judgment, we would only at best simply retain most of the territory that is already ours. Is it honestly worth the risk of losing over half of our country to obtain the recognition of our borders from the only country in the world that claims not to recognize them?

Belizeans, as the editor of the Amandala recently observed, there are giant forces at work here herding us in a specific direction. Do not allow yourself to be blindly led like cattle to the slaughter! Wake up and see the peril ahead before the window of opportunity to save your country permanently closes. The handwriting is on the wall; let those who can see, understand and heed its dire warning before the ineffable future it portrays becomes the unchangeable past.

In conclusion, it is patently reasonable to make a judgment call, that, based on probabilistic projections, the present facts do not afford us the level of comfort we need before agreeing to place our country on the ICJ’s chopping block. And this is speaking from a strictly logical prospective, not fear inspired as some have opined.
As a country, this referendum represents the most crucial decision we may ever be asked to make.

If we make the wrong decision regrets will be futile, for the way ahead will then have been predetermined by the hidden hands of master strategists. Think, Belize, and think well, or as René  Descartes postulated, we may cease to be.

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Deshawn Swasey

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