Editorial — 18 May 2019
Parliamentary dictatorship must end

When he saw the Special Agreement (the Compromis) that Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington had signed with Guatemala, former Prime Minister, Honorable Said Musa, wrote in his book, “With malice toward none”, that Prime Minister Barrow’s 2008-2012 government had “got off to an inauspicious start…” As we all know, Musa would later appear on stage in support of the Special Agreement.

Senator Eamon Courtenay, who was reportedly present when the agreement was being formulated, said the party he represented, the PUP, insisted that the agreement be brought to the table in Belize before the Foreign Minister signed it in Washington. He has produced documentation from the OAS website that shows that on December 3, 2008, five days before the Special Agreement was signed in Washington, on December 8, 2008, his party “expressed the view that even before the document is signed at the OAS it must go to the National Assembly…”

The PUP will have to explain why they took so long to reveal their position on the Special Agreement. Philip Goldson flew to Belize in 1966, risking jail, to expose the Webster’s Proposals.

It could well be that we have an unassailable case, on paper, and if we do all the right things, if our government and lawyers make all the right moves at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and we show the world that we are a nation worthy of respect, that we will concretize our case and be delivered with all our territory intact.

What we cannot shake is the fact that the captains of our ship backed us into a corner where we had to go to court. Going to court is proper under normal circumstances. We are not going to court under normal circumstances. We were bullied into going there.

In Guatemala’s old story, they argued that the British, who became our formal colonial masters in 1862, bullied them into signing the 1859 Treaty. That is historically not true. In 1859 Guatemala had a paper idea that a part of our country was theirs. At that time Guatemala had little contact with its Izabal District and the Peten, and the Maya and Garinagu and Baymen lived and worked here in complete freedom from Spain and the pretensions of Guatemala City.

The bully in this region in 1859 was the United States of America (they still are), and the Guatemalan government formed a strategic alliance with the British. The Belizeans, at that time, had naturally occupied the Sibun to the Sarstoon – it was open land – so the formalities of an official border between Belize (being acted for by the British) and Guatemala were completed.

In 1798, Spain tried to bully the Baymen from this land. The Baymen strengthened an alliance with the British and help came from Jamaica. It wasn’t the British who decided to repel Spain in 1798: it was the Baymen who decided to stay and fight. Over time the alliance with the British would increase and be formalized into the official colony of Belize.

Some of Belize’s leaders are saying that May 8th was arrived at because Belize, with skillful negotiation, backed the Guatemalans into going to court. We will skip comment on that and say that what Belize has signed is unprecedented, has never been done in this world before, and it is nigh impossible that any nation worth its salt will ever do it again.

Our leaders have no reason to exult, to glory. What they have earned is a sigh of relief, for getting a YES vote after putting us in a situation where we had great difficulty to say NO.

When the people who voted NO studied the agreement, they were incredulous, couldn’t believe what they were seeing and even though they realized that our government had hooked us thoroughly, really thoroughly, got the Friends of Belize behind it, made the Guatemalan people go to vote before us, they knew their stomachs couldn’t handle it so they brought every argument they could forward to justify how they would vote.

When many people who voted YES, studied the agreement, they bit their lips, gritted their teeth to stop themselves from swearing about what Foreign Minister Elrington had signed. They felt they had no choice but to go along.

Guatemala is gloating. We understand that their president was gloating, made a point of congratulating himself, and congratulating us, on our signing the Special Agreement. If he did, he was making fun of us, publicly. There are reports of Guatemala’s making maps to show their kids what they proclaimed back in the 1940s, that Belize was theirs. Our leaders have to stop being so friendly with their counterparts over there. Our love is for the people of Guatemala, not their leaders who disrespect us and scheme for our land.

Some Belizeans say, disparagingly, that the present Guatemalan leader is a clown. He reportedly used to make a living as a clown. It is an honest profession that brings joy to many people, young ones especially, though it is said the Guatemalan leader, while a clown, mocked the color of the skin of many Belizeans. It is possible that he was/is ignorant, didn’t understand what he was doing. We need to ask Guatemala some questions about that. If the Guatemalan people value our friendship they must not elect ugly racists.

Many experts say the Special Agreement, of itself, does not jeopardize Belize’s territory, that it appears to offer Guatemala wonderful opportunities, but there is a catch, which is the treaty signed in 1859. What is for sure is that going forward Belize cannot afford to be slack.

We cannot take away the fact that we have endorsed the Special Agreement. Our leaders made it so that we had to. What we have to do now is make sure Guatemala doesn’t get anything, because they don’t deserve anything. They might get what doesn’t belong to them if our leaders don’t mend their ways and stop acting autocratically.

All Belize’s wisdom does not reside in the House of Representatives. The people must have their say before decisions are made by our leaders.

There is greatness in the Belizean people. Belize deserves leaders who are as great as they are. The present political system allows for greatness in our leaders, if honor resided in them. The Bible says it does not profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul. There is too much greed and hubris in too many of Belize’s leaders.

Today, we are not happy. What happened on May 8th, 2019 did not begin on that date; it began long before that. There were things our leaders needed to do for our nation and they didn’t. Guatemala’s leaders have succeeded where Belize’s leaders have failed. They made us go to court.

    We don’t look for revenge over what has happened here. From the very beginning, from way back in 1798, all we were about was defending our rights to self-determination. We want our territory intact, and the only way we can achieve that is if our leaders cut the autocracy and start respecting the people.

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Deshawn Swasey

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