I was really surprised to hear the departing British High Commissioner’s recent comment on television that he was not aware of any country that had lost territory to another country as a result of an ICJ decision. It is also an amazing coincidence that his arguments for going to the ICJ were exactly the same as those being used by the government, or is the converse the case? I hope that his replacement will display a little more respect for the intelligence of Belizeans. Now let’s proceed with the topic of this correspondence.
Ever since Guatemala endorsed the 1859 border convention with Great Britain they unwittingly signed away any claim, legal or imagined, they may have had to the area of land from the Sibun to the Sarstoon Rivers. They and their legal advisers know this very well. So, cognizant of the fact that they would invariably lose in any legal argument concerning the validity of the Belize/ Guatemala Border Treaty, they astutely decided that their best and only chance to recover the territory that the British legally obtained by outwitting them was to declare the 1859 Treaty, in which our mutual borders were clearly defined, null and void. Their argument is that they could justifiably do so, since the British had failed, to their satisfaction, to compensate them as per Article 7 of that convention. This contention, made at the beginning of the Second World War, was the genesis of their current territorial claim on Belize.
The British for their part, being well aware of the illegality of the Guatemalan contention to have unilaterally invalidated the Border Treaty, rejected this assertion and told Guatemala that if they felt that the borders were undefined then the issue should be taken to court for legal resolution. Guatemala, knowing that their position was legally untenable, refused. Nevertheless, their subsequent offer of monetary compensation to Guatemala may well be interpreted as a tacit acknowledgement that Guatemala indeed had a valid claim against them.
Even before Belize gained Independence in 1981 Guatemala and her formidable self-serving friends have been cooking schemes to deprive us of our territory and to make Belize a satellite of Guatemala. These came in the form of the Heads of Agreement, the Webster and various other Proposals, all of which were violently rejected by Belizeans. Undeterred, the architects of these insidious attempts to dismember our Jewel are now at it again, this time with their devious ICJ Belize/Guatemala Compromis.
Our first Prime Minister and other legendary Belizean defenders proved too patriotic and insightful to be deceived by their tactics. So they bided their time until the torch was passed to a new generation of neoliberal Belizean leaders and fifth columnists that would be susceptible to their masterful misdirection. Once they had succeeded in convincing the Belizean Government to formally declare that no clearly defined borders exist between Belize and Guatemala, the door was thrown wide open for Phase Two of their insidious plan, the road to the ICJ with their cunningly conceived compromis as the guiding light, all under the guise of finally solving the Guatemalan claim.
Now the only credible claim to Belizean territory that Guatemala may have is the British failure to compensate them for signing the 1859 Treaty. The “any and all legal claims” in the compromis allows them to make that very argument to the ICJ. It may also be substantively argued that our Government has acknowledged the invalidity of the 1859 Treaty, as that is the only way there could be “ no clearly defined borders” with Guatemala.
This being the case, how could the ICJ judges fail to compensate Guatemala for its claim against Great Britain by not awarding them Belizean territory as this professionally crafted compromis empowers them to do when redefining our “undefined borders”?
Now the proponents of the “Yes” to the ICJ base their position on the iron-clad validity of the 1859 border treaty. Are you aware that the government’s acceptance of “undefined borders” with Guatemala and the legal validity of the 1859 Treaty are mutually exclusive? Will history prove that the departing British High Commissioner was correct in his assessment of Belizean mental capacity? Are you of the “Yes” to the ICJ persuasion honestly convinced that you are willing to render unto Caesar the things that Caesar covets to satisfy a claim against Pontius Pilate?