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Sidley takes Mariana to task

LettersSidley takes Mariana to task

Dear Ms. Mariana Verde,

I write in reply to your letter captioned “Mariana Verde questions Sidley Leslie” appearing in the Friday, January 11, 2019 issue of the Amandala newspaper.

In answer to your questions on my contention that on four occasions the Belize government has agreed with Guatemala that the present location of our boundaries is not legally valid and is therefore liable to be changed, be advised that the views expressed in my article “The choice before us” to which your letter refers, are based on impartial and logical conclusions derived from a dispassionate observation of the relevant facts.

To begin with, it is not only my conclusion that the Joint Statement issued in 1992 invalidated the international boundary between Belize and Guatemala. This was also the position taken by reports in the international media and by other credible sources. Ask Belizean linguist Ms. Sandra Coye. Additionally, any high school student could tell you that the only logical reason that they would agree to devise and conclude a new boundary treaty with a neighbor who claims that their supposed ironclad existing boundary treaty is not legitimate is, if they agree with them that this is indeed the case.

In reference to the Confidence-Building Measures, the views expressed were a direct quote from Gustavo Adolfo Orellana Portillo, who is the Assad Shoman equivalent for Guatemala. He wrote in reference to the 2005 confidence-building measures, “… the Government of Belize acknowledges that the adjacency line does not represent the international border between Belize and Guatemala, and that as long as the territorial dispute is not resolved, there are no recognized boundaries between them. They clearly recognize as well that the reference markers DO NOT determine the international border between Guatemala and Belize, and that reference monuments are being questioned, not constituting boundary indicators”. Of course, as stated in your letter I could have included the CBM’s of 2000 and 2003 in my list. I find no reason for disagreement with you on this issue — in fact I thank you for reminding me of these omissions.

Now let us turn to the 2008 Special Agreement treaty. A treaty is simply a formal agreement between two or more counties. Logic dictates that any agreement between two parties can be invalidated by mutual consent and agreement by both parties. This observation was also expressed in the 2001 Legal Opinion on the Guatemalan Claim written by Sir Eli Lauterpacht et al. In references to this I simply reiterated a legal opinion given by well-known Belizean attorney at law Arthur Saldivar which needless to say, makes perfect sense.

He explained that under law, for the derivatives of a treaty to remain in effect, at least one of the parties to that treaty must always remain in adherence to what the treaty had established. So the minute Belize gave the ICJ the authority to determine our boundaries by endorsing Article 2 of the Special Agreement treaty; they also joined Guatemala in expressing their non-adherence to the immovable borders that the 1859 treaty had established. The significance of this argument is that once again through the mutual agreement of both countries, and this makes the third instance, the boundaries established by the 1859 treaty have been invalidated and in consequence can be removed from their present location by the ICJ.

In reference to the second reason why signing the Special Agreement invalidated our boundaries with Guatemala I posited the following argument:

“The fact is that we have in 2008 concluded a new boundary treaty with Guatemala which supersedes and nullifies the immutable boundary the 1859 treaty had established. Simply put, under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties which the ICJ uses, specifically Articles 59 and 30 of that convention, when there are two conflicting treaties [ 2008 Special Agreement Treaty and 1859 Treaty] the newer invalidates the older totally or at least insofar as they are contradictory.

“Since the older 1859 treaty had determined and established immovable boundaries and now this 2008 Special Agreement treaty authorizes the ICJ to change the location of the border, thereby indicating movable boundaries, the older immovable boundaries contention fails for a fourth time. For a more detailed explanation of this please refer to an article entitled ‘A sad tale of two treaties’ appearing in a recent Friday edition of the Amandala newspaper.”

Should you find this too perverse to grasp, you might consider the simple analogy of successive wills in which the most recent takes precedence.

Now why do you suppose that Google Earth subsequently changed our hitherto solid boundary lines which indicate international borders to dotted lines indicating divisions within a single country? By your faux logic it must mean that they consider themselves smarter than the luminaries cited in your letter.

Also, why do you think former foreign minister Senator Eamon Courtenay, in view of what has transpired since 2001, is advocating an updated evaluation of the 2001 Legal Opinion in order to properly evaluate our present litigation risk? This, he maintains, must be a prerequisite before we go to the ICJ. Obviously, unlike the other notables mentioned in your letter, he now believes that something may have occurred to compromise Belize’s boundaries. So, Madam, do you now consider him less intelligent than when he was a foreign minister?

In conclusion I see no reason to subscribe to the flawed logic you employed to suggest that my conclusions must imply that our negotiators are either, “past stupid or traitors”. Have you considered the possibility that they were simply outmaneuvered by brilliant world-class adversaries?

Finally, in answer to your question on what I expect Belizeans to believe, I simply expect them to believe the truth! And on the matter of how smart or patriotic I consider myself to be my advice to you is:  instead of resorting to cheap ad hominem methods of persuasion in an attempt to make your point— you might have been more convincing if you had at least made a credible attempt to logically dismantle the arguments I have posited.

Sidley Leslie

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