To the Editor,
There is only one week remaining for Belize to submit documents to the ICJ for the Court to consider the Compromis. At this time, Guatemala has not revealed the name of their “Agents” and they are also resisting the inclusion of our Maritime AreasAct of 1992. Twenty seven years ago, at that time the late Edward A. Laing Jr., the Hon. Philip Goldson and I had extensive discussions on the passage of this Act. For the benefit of our younger citizens I have retrieved from the Freedom Committee archives an explanation and discussion on the issue.
United Democratic Party Secretariat
19 King Street
Belize City, Belize
Rt. Hon MANUEL Esquivel
Mayor Fred Martinez
National Party Chairman
February 10, 1992
Hon. Dean Barrow
Hon. Henry Young
Dear Belizeans and Friends of Belize in Southern California:
Much has happened in Belize and in the party in recent weeks. Nationally, the most important thing has been the passage of the Maritime Areas Act. This Act extends Belize’s territorial sea to 12 miles beyond the outer cayes and reefs, but maintains the 3 miles status quo in the waters to the south. It also creates a Belizean Exclusive Economic Zone in the area between the 3 mile line and the median line with Guatemala.
The U.D.P., as initiator of bi-partisan cooperation to end the Guatemalan claim, participated in the country-wide effort to explain the provisions of the Act and to hear the views of the people. It was clearly understood from the beginning that the people would not only be heard, but would be listened to. At the end of this process, it was clear the U.D.P supporters, at least, did not support the passage of this Act, even though the U.D.P had proposed several amendments to make it clear that Guatemala’s territorial sea would not cross the median line, and to establish that any use by Guatemala of Belize’s economic zone would have to be approved by referendum. The U.D.P therefore, proposed a further amendment that would in effect, delay the coming into force of the Act until approved in a referendum. This amendment would have allowed the Act to be passed by the National Assembly, but specified that the date of its coming into force would be determined by a “yes” vote in the referendum on the final settlement with Guatemala. A “no” vote in that referendum would automatically kill the Act before it ever took effect.
It is the U.D.P view that this amendment would have satisfied the people’s wish to vote on whether or not this Act should come into force, while at the same time it would have satisfied Guatemala’s stated position that the Act was a prerequisite for the negotiations on dropping their claim to be finalized. The government did at least agree to include in the Act, a provision that would kill the Act in the event of a “no” vote in the referendum, but in the meantime the Act is in force. Also, the Act remains in force even if there is no final settlement to be put to referendum. This is clearly contrary to the U.D.P position.
Our position is that we agree that the Act claims all Belize’s territorial sea as it existed on September 21, 1981, but at that same time, the Act does give up Belize’s right to claim territorial seas up to the median line. The U.D.P. believes that rights are vested in the people, not in the Government, and that therefore only people have the authority to give up this particular right, as well as sound reasons for retaining this right. These reasons could be debated forever without coming to any consensus. The only way to decide, consistent with the principle that rights are vested in the people, is for the people to decide by majority vote. Instead, the government proceeded to make that decision for the people. The U.D.P could not therefore support the passage of the Act.
We are still convinced that our participation in the bi-partisan process has resulted in a law that is much improved due to our input. At least now the people are assured that there will be a referendum when or if there is a final solution to the Guatemalan problem, and that the results of that referendum will determine not only the acceptability of that solution but also the acceptability of the Maritime Areas Act. We cannot say when a final solution will be arrived at, but it is possible sometime this year.
Within the U.D.P., even though there was expressed consensus that the U.D.P should participate in the bi-partisan search for a solution, some officers of the Party seized upon the internal debate over the Act to promote their personal differences with the Leader and Deputy Leader, differences which pre-dated the 1989 election. These officers freely, and at length, expressed their opposition to the Act. Their views were heard and debated both in the Central Committee and at the National Executive committee. They were unable to muster majority support. They therefore called on the Party to make amendments to the Act and to take the matter to the membership. This was done. The party all along agreed that it would vote according to the dictate of the people.
Because the question of foregoing certain rights in the southern sea became the major concern of the people, the Party proposed a further amendment that would delay the coming into force of the Act until after a referendum, as already explained. This group insisted that the referendum should come before any consideration of Act in the National Assembly. They formed the Patriotic Alliance two weeks later, and started public meetings condemning both U.D.P and P.U.P even so, the U.D.P. agreed that they should be free to speak their minds on the issue, as it was a matter above party politics and of national importance. However, members of this group proceeded beyond the issue, and started public attacks on the character and integrity of the Party’s leaders. Party members were told that the Party leader had received $1 million from Guatemala. On KREM Radio they alleged that the leaders were fifth columnists and “laughing all the way to the bank!” They openly accused the leader of working for Guatemala and lying to the people.
At this point, the party took a stand. Public criticism of the Party’s polices, though in breach of the principle of collective responsibility, were permitted because we considered the issue more important than the party. But public accusation that the Party’s leadership is treacherous and corrupt could only be construed as a deliberate attempt to destroy the integrity of leadership and the Party itself. For this reason, the National Executive Committee expelled Mr. B.Q. Pitts, Mr. Hubert Elrington, and Mr. Derek Aikman.
After the decision, Mr. Goldson and Mr. Rhaburn signified their resignation from the Party. The three persons expelled and Mr. Goldson have since formed their own Party. They continue to concentrate their attacks on the integrity of the Party’s leaders. It is therefore clear that their principal agenda is revenge. By thus making common cause with the P.U.P., they have become guilty of very crime for which they condemned the U.D.P.
The U.D.P. has made it clear to all who may have resigned in the heat of the moment that they are welcome to rejoin the U.D.P. at any time.
The Party is now engaged in a country-wide tour of public meetings and divisional meetings. The National convention of the Party, the Biennial Conference, is scheduled for March 22, 1992.
The People’s Pulse Newspaper has just acquired a desk-top publishing system and other equipment, and has moved to new offices. We plan to make the paper more dynamic and to increase its readership. The Party continues to confront the issues aggressively, and we continue to attract new blood into the leadership ranks. Although the events of the past few weeks have done some damage, we know that, that can be overcome. The Party has won new respect for its openness and its willingness to put the interests of the nation above other considerations. We are confident that the electorate acknowledges that their well-being depends on the continued struggle and eventual victory of the United Democratic Party. We have no intention of letting them down.
Best regards to all out friends in the Los Angeles area, as well as Belizeans with who friends of the U.D.P are in contact.
(Published by “Friends of UDP,” 3940 Roxton Avenue, LA, CA 90008)