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Home Editorial Partridge, Sarstoon-Temash, and the MAA

Partridge, Sarstoon-Temash, and the MAA

“Former Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel and MP Dean Barrow toured the country with sitting Prime Minister George Price in support of the Maritime Areas Act.”

“The Patriotic Alliance for Belizean Integrity (PATI) was formed in December 1991 to respond to the Maritime Areas Act formulated to solve the Guatemalan claim to Belizean territory. The PATI dissolved into the National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR) on January 27, 1992.”

– WIKIPEDIA, the free encyclopedia

This is a difficult situation in which the Maya of the Sarstoon-Temash find themselves, and, as we pointed out last week, the situation is so similar to that in which the Native Americans found themselves in what is now the United States of America, that it is almost frightening. It is almost frightening because a lot of very bad things happened to the Native American tribes of North America, and these very bad things came as if out of nowhere and they came without warning. The Native Americans must have asked themselves: what have we done to deserve this? You live on land for generations, and you practice your way of life from time immemorial, and then a stranger comes from outside and that stranger sees something valuable in your land, something for which that stranger conceives a great desire, and what he sees is more valuable to him than who you are as a human being. So then, you must move off that land, or they will find a way to move you. This is what happened to the Native Americans, and this is what will happen to the Maya of the Sarstoon-Temash.

There are other human beings in Belize who are struggling to make a better life for themselves, and these other human beings include the Creoles, the Mestizos, the Garinagu, and the East Indians, many of whom also live in the Toledo District, and, of course, in the rest of Belize. It was quite predictable, and actually classic, that the oil company and its propagandists would seek to show the other Belizean ethnicities that their interests are different from those of the Maya, and that they should support the oil company against the Maya of the Sarstoon-Temash. Indeed, the oil company is so rich and powerful that it has even succeeded in turning Maya against Maya in southern Toledo.

The question would be, then, what can a Belize City newspaper hope to gain by expressing unconditional support for the Maya of the Sarstoon–Temash? And the answer would be, nothing. There is nothing to be gained. This is a matter of principle, where we are concerned; this is a matter of history; and this is a matter of conscience. This is who we are on Partridge Street, and this is what we do.

The one clear advantage the Maya of Sarstoon–Temash have is that the people of Belize have seen that the oil company which came before this one, the oil company in Cayo which has been pumping and exporting oil for some years now, made a lot of money for themselves, and now the oil is not as plentiful in the west. But, Belizeans as a people don’t have much to show for the Cayo oil company’s activities. The likelihood is that specific politicians in the PUP and the UDP have been made happy by the oil company, so happy that they accepted, on behalf of Belizeans, percentages of the oil money which were, to put it bluntly, minuscule. This happened when the PUP were in power, and it continued when the UDP took over. This is how oil works in countries when the people are not informed, organized, and militant.

Another advantage the Maya have is that we Belizeans now see for ourselves exactly what the Maritime Areas Act (MAA) was about. It was an oil deal, because down there where the borders of Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras meet each other, there are valuable minerals. The late Philip Goldson broke away from the UDP and formed a new political party – NABR, because he wanted to fight the Maritime Areas Act. This was 1991, and the top leadership of the then Opposition UDP – Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel and Hon. Dean Barrow, were cooperating with the ruling PUP in selling the MAA to the people of Belize. Mr. Goldson said no, and struck out on his own, with the support, mostly temporary, of Derek Aikman, Hubert Elrington, Sam Rhaburn, and B. Q. Pitts. Aikman was the UDP Freetown area representative, and Rhaburn was the UDP Belize Rural North area representative. Mr. Goldson’s move scared Esquivel and Barrow into bolting from the alliance with the PUP on the MAA matter. Two years later, when Mr. Goldson agreed to bring NABR into a coalition with the UDP for the June 1993 general elections, it was with the specific condition that the coalition, if elected, would repeal the Maritime Areas Act. The UDP/NABR coalition won, but the UDP reneged on the agreement. This is history, and the UDP has never been held accountable for this.

A third advantage which the Maya of Sarstoon–Temash may have, is that this big push to take the Guatemalan claim to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) next year, has Belizeans skittish. In fact, there has been an attempt for some years now to claim that the Maya of Sarstoon–Temash originated, some generations ago, from the highlands of Guatemala. This claim was a part of the legal argument presented by the Government of Belize when they fought against the Toledo Maya case for customary land rights in the Supreme Court of Belize in 2010. The Maya won that case, and now the GOB is appealing. The oil company and its propagandists are presently trying to spook other Belizeans with this smear, but almost all of us Belizeans came from somewhere else originally. Have the Maya of the Sarstoon–Temash been loyal Belizeans, or have they not been? The answer is that it is because they are loyal Belizeans that they have been fighting for their rights. This fight is a Belizean fight, because we don’t yet know who exactly these oil people are. The one thing we know is that they are not Belizeans, and they are buying love down south.

There are some people in our business who go where the money is. Any fool can see that if your goal is to make money, then you will go where the oil company is. It is not because we are fools on Partridge Street that we are supporting the Maya of Sarstoon–Temash. It is because there are issues which are bigger than money. In 1981, Partridge Street fought against the Heads of Agreement. This was not a sensible move. After all, the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and Belize all swore by this document. On the ground, however, the Belizean people rejected it. In 2012, it will take a while, but the people of Belize will support the Maya of southern Toledo. The hope for the oil company is to divide the Maya. That is something Partridge Street can do nothing about, except insofar as to express our solidarity with SATIIM. This is what we have done.

Power to the people.

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