If Belize does not agree to go to the ICJ, “the whole country will become refugees if the Guatemalans come across and chase us out:” Hon. Wilfred Elrington
BELIZE CITY, Wed. Sept. 19, 2018– At a ceremony for the Status of Forces Agreement that was signed today between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Belize, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Wilfred Elrington, area representative for the Pickstock constituency, said that if we vote no to go to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), “The whole country will become refugees if the Guatemalans come across and chase us out.”
Elrington explained that the Guatemalans had been insistent that they get our land: “either that or they want to exercise control over our foreign affairs and our defence. They are not asking for money, they want land. If you give them an inch, they will not stop. We cannot reach any agreement with them that is hopeful.”
Elrington said that his experience as a lawyer tells him that when the decision is given at the ICJ, we will retain the entire country as we know it. He said that all the experts who have given an opinion say that if any alteration happens, it will happen in the sea.
“Nothing will happen to Corozal, Orange Walk, Cayo Stann Creek, Toledo. If there is any adjustment in the map, it will be in the area of the sea,” Elrington said.
Elrington was asked what will happen if Belizeans vote no to the ICJ referendum.
“People get scared when I say this,” Elrington began, “but the Guatemalans went to their referendum and said yes to the ICJ, and the following day they started coming across, thinking that that gave them a right to Belize.”
“If three, four hundred Guatemalans think that Belize belongs to them and come across, you understand the problem we are faced with. And if our defence force causes any of them to be injured or get killed, it is going to force the Guatemalan military to come across to defend their people.”
Elrington was asked if there is an alternative to going to the ICJ.
“Those who are saying no seem to think that we could continue negotiating, but the Guatemalan Government has agreed to go to the ICJ and the Belize Government has agreed to go to the ICJ. It took us over 70 years to get them to go to the ICJ,” Elrington said.
Elrington added, “It is for that reason that we are so careful about what goes on in the Sarstoon. It is not that we don’t believe that it is ours. We know it is ours; it has always been ours … but whereas we have maybe a thousand military personnel, the Guatemalans have thousands and thousands and thousands. They have air force, they have tanks, they have paratroopers; they have all kinds of military hardware. It is not that we are afraid of them, but you have to respect might.”
Elrington was asked what he thinks has been the response from the Belizean people on the increased rounds of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Education Campaign.
“The thing that has surprised me most, and continues to surprise me up to this day, is the absence of knowledge of this issue on the part of most Belizeans. Belizeans high and low really don’t know the details of it, and we have a tremendous work ahead to educate and inform people.”
Elrington said, “We have not been telling anyone to vote yes, but whenever we give them the information, invariably they change their minds.”
Elrington explained that the best way is to attain peace is by settling the claim. The whole country will go down if we vote no, he said.
“The whole country will become refugees if the Guatemalans come across and chase us out. So I have a personal stake in it; so I tend to be emotional. People must know what they are doing and they must know the consequences,” the Foreign Minister warned.
Elrington did not say how “we will retain the entire country as we know it” if any alteration that happens, “will happen in the sea.”
Isn’t the sea a part of our Belizean territory?