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Aug 25, 2015

The BTV Raises Belizean Flag on Sarstoon Island

The Belize Territorial Volunteers remain in the headlines tonight. This morning, a smaller group headed down south once again to the Sarstoon Island. Unlike their previous visit when they were aggressed by the Guatemalan military, today’s visit was without a hitch.  What we observed however, was rather disturbing, as the Guatemalan navy was seen escorting the Belizean military from the estuary of the Sarstoon River to well beyond Sarstoon Island.  Along the way Guatemalan poachers were also encountered as they illegally harvested fish and other natural resources from the area. The mission of the BTV nonetheless, was to erect the Belizean flag to show sovereignty over the island. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Belize Territorial Volunteers returned to Sarstoon Island earlier today; this time however, only a handful of its membership was present for the journey upstream.  Of the initial mission to trek to the isolated land mass on August sixteenth, a few faces, including well-known activist Audrey Matura-Shepherd, were back for a second time.  The singular objective was to plant the Belizean flag as a beacon of our territorial sovereignty on Sarstoon Island.

 

The journey, however, wasn’t without its spectacle.

 

Wil Maheia

Wil Maheia, Belize Territorial Volunteer

“As a Belizean to watch my military being escorted by the Guatemalan military was mien; that was a blow to us.  I mean for us the Territorial Volunteers it was a blessing to us that the BDF basically tricked us and left early because the Guatemalan military obviously escorted them up the river.  So it gave us an opportunity to put our flags on the Sarstoon Island without interruption from the Guatemalan military.”

 

Along the meandering waterway, at least eight individual canoes carrying Guatemalan poachers were spotted.  Upon sight of the volunteers, the illegal fishermen and harvesters took to water, beating a hasty retreat from the peering irises of our zoom lens.

 

Wil Maheia

“I am hundred percent sure that they are Guatemalans; they live on the Guatemalan side. They wouldn’t run away if they were Belizeans because they would be able identify that our boat was not like an enforcement agency boat so a hundred percent sure that they were there. Again, it is time for Belize to stand up to protect our natural resources. The hundreds and hundreds and thousands of meters of gillnets and the cluster of Guatemalans in groups of ten to twelve people that were there on the beach just raping our natural resources; it is time for us as Belizeans to stand up. I call on the government, the fisheries department, the coast guard to begin to patrol our beaches, our coastline, from the Sarstoon all the way up to the Rio Hondo. And as you can see, this morning was an ordinary morning and in my opinion, there were between fifty to a hundred boats including the boats that were at the mouth of the Sarstoon River, trapping the jacks.”

 

This, nevertheless, is only but a small part of the problem Belize is facing with illegal activities in the Sarstoon.

 

Wil Maheia

“Waiting there and monitoring the illegal fishing that’s taking place and then seeing our military being escorted by the Guatemalan military was damaging to me as a Belizean.  I felt insulted that we had to have our military being escorted by the Guatemalan military and they escorted them way into Belizean waters.”

 

The placement of the magnificent red, white and blue standard on the southernmost riverine island in Belize is an act of patriotism.  The act of hoisting a flag on the controversial location may also be seen by some as rather incendiary.

 

Wil Maheia

“This is Belize, it’s our country.  Every square inch of this eight thousand eight hundred and eighty-sevem square miles belongs to us and I believe that nobody should deny us the right to plant a flag to show our patriotism for this country, in any part of this country that we so choose.  If we want to go to Ranguana, if we want to go to the Blue Hole or if we want to go north or south…we Belizeans have the right to do that and that’s what we wanted to demonstrate to the people of Belize that as Belizeans, we should have the right to put a flag wherever we want to in this beautiful country of ours. There’s no way—in no way, shape or form—that me as a Belizean or we as the territorial volunteers are provoking anybody by doing something peacefully. Once again, we took our boats there; nobody was armed with any kind of ammunition. We went there as peaceful Belizean citizens.”

 

According to Wil Maheia, it is not the first time that the BTV has erected a Belizean flag on Sarstoon Island.  The flag was initially placed there in 2013, much to Guatemala‘s chagrin.

 

Wil Maheia

“We placed a flag on the Sarstoon Island in September of 2013; so it is not the first time. But we have been denied over the past year, the right to place a flag on the island. We strongly object to that. Guatemala has no right to tell us we can’t place a flag on the Sarstoon Island. It is our island. Clearly it is within Belize’s territory. And we will continue to place flags—whether or not the Guatemalans will take it down after we leave—they usually do. So I wouldn’t be surprised.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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3 Responses for “The BTV Raises Belizean Flag on Sarstoon Island”

  1. Marb says:

    Good job, my Belizean Brethren, I applaud your boldness. Let Guatemala know we are BRAVE BELIZEANS AND WE stand strong for our country.

  2. Hatari says:

    What the BTV’s are doing is RIGHT and I don’t care which politician says otherwise. The bureaucrats will argue over territorial borders and national sovereignty for the rest of their lives, and ours, but sadly nothing is going to change. Guatemala, no matter which final “agreement” ever gets signed (if one ever does), will not do a damn thing to enforce the treaty and keep their people on their side. They could give a crap about what happens in Belize. It is what it is, folks! THEREFORE, it is now left up to what is RIGHT! AND what the BTV and other organizations with similar ideals, like FCD, Audubon, PfB, BTIA, and private companies and individuals are doing, is RIGHT! You know it and I know it! So I back them 100% without hesitation. We CAN secure our borders and we the people are going to have to do it OURSELVES . . PEACEFULLY . . with professionalism and the strength to back it up!

  3. CEO says:

    Wil do not stop until both the Belizean and the Guatemalan governments are shamed; one because of inaction and the other because of its aggression.

    For them to encroach to remove the flags you guys place should never be acceptable.

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