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Apr 28, 2016

Sarstoon Trip Still A Go Despite Official Effort to Dissuade Territorial Volunteers

This afternoon, Ministry of Foreign Affairs C.E.O. Lawrence Sylvestre, with military leaders General David Jones and Admiral John Borland attempted to dissuade representatives of the Belize Territorial Volunteers from going to the Sarstoon on Saturday. The meeting took place in Punta Gorda, hometown of the BTV, and first indications are that the G.O.B. and military representatives were unsuccessful. The argument from one side is that the BTV will only aggravate an already volatile situation in the Sarstoon. The argument from the other is that they will not be bullied, and that the Guatemalans cannot forbid Belizeans from going anywhere in Belize. So which side will prevail? And if the BTV does go to the Sarstoon, what happens then? Mike Rudon was in P.G. and has the story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

The meeting this afternoon was requested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The idea was to convince the BTV that going to the Sarstoon on Saturday is a bad…even dangerous idea. The Prime Minister has appealed to Wil Maheia on national television, to no avail. General David Jones has done the same, with as little success. So today was the third attempt, though we’re not sure in this case the third time was the charm.

 

David Jones

Brig. Gen. David Jones, Commander, Belize Defense Force

“They gave their positions, they had a lot of sentiments they needed to expressed…we listened to them. But at the end of the day, my suggestion to them was to try and work with us and to give us some time to try and work a protocol that would work for Belizeans in the area because our objectives are the same as theirs. We want Belizeans to go into the Sarstoon River, all the way to Cadenas uninterrupted, unimpeded, to use it equally as we should have equal rights in the river. So we gave them our suggestions; they said they are going to discuss it with their team and they will get back to us within twenty-four hours. So that is what I am going to wait on.”

 

Wil Maheia, Head, Belize Territorial Volunteers

“As it is right now our trip is on for Saturday, but we agreed that we will discuss what we talked about in the meeting with the BTV personnel and will make a decision by tomorrow. But as of now, the trip is on.”

 

Wil Maheia

So here’s the thing. On Monday the PM stated that there is no doubt that the Guatemalans will intercept Belizeans. Maybe Guatemala’s Foreign Minister Carlos Raul Morales heard him, because in an interview this week he reiterated that they will stop the Belizeans going into the Sarstoon. That spells trouble. Good thing the good old B.D.F. will be there to help in the event of a threat to Belizeans, right?

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“I expect they’re going to enforce their position. Their position is they own the entire Sarstoon River so I expect, based on that political directive, I expect the military is going to enforce it.”

 

Mike Rudon

“But apart from an interception and stopping the boat, do you expect anything else? Are you looking that maybe something else could happen?”

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“Well I cannot predict what they are going to do so I am not going to assume what they are going to do. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

 

Mike Rudon

“I know in the military, it is always good to plan ahead. If the Belizeans are aggressed in some way by the Guatemalan military, what will be the position of the B.D.F. at the base?”

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“Well it won’t be the position of the B.D.F.; if will be the position of the government. The B.D.F. work on the directive from our political leaders so it depends on what the government directive is; the B.D.F. will act.”

 

Mike Rudon

“And have you all gotten a directive from government?”

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“Well we haven’t gotten a directive as yet because we had this meeting and we are hoping that the excursion doesn’t happen.”

 

Yes, you heard that right. The Belize Defense Force will not assist the men and women of the Belize Territorial Volunteers if the Guatemalans aggress them inside Belizean territory.

 

Wil Maheia

“They made it clear that at the end of the day, it is the politicians that call the shots. So if ant shots are fired, I want the Belizean people to know that they need to hold the politicians responsible. At the meeting, everyone said that the last word is with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs; they are the political leaders. And at the end of the day, they are the ones. So if shots are fired at the BTV, the only persons to blame is the political leaders: the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of National Security because the military people say they take directives from them.”

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“We haven’t been given any directive to intervene, so at this point we are not going to intervene.”

 

Mike Rudon

“Sir, but just on the position of being a military, a Belizean military, and seeing Belizean residents, citizens of Belize, command a threat; wouldn’t it be inherent on the military to intervene with or without a political directive?”

 

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“No, because we are in a democracy. In a democracy, the military follow the leaders; the political leaders, so we are still in a democracy. That hasn’t changed so we still have to follow it.”

 

Mike Rudon

“Are you concerned about the fallout of this because the B.D.F. will get some fallout from this because like you I expect that there will be an interception of the Belize Territorial Volunteers?”

Brig. Gen. David Jones

“This is a national issue; it’s not a B.D.F. issue so whatever happens in the area, it is a directive that our political leaders will make. We are only going to be part of that direction that happens. So it’s not an issue for the B.D.F. to work out.”

 

Wil Maheia

“I hope that the world is listening and for the Guatemalan Foreign Minister to say something like that; that is a threat that is a threat. Clearly, if they kidnap us that is an illegal act and we will not be going into Guatemala. So if the Guatemalan military comes into Belize, it’s an act of kidnapping. Not even detention, they will be kidnapping Belizeans.”

 

According to Jones, he will not inform his Guatemalan counterpart General Perez or the O.A.S. that the BTV will be going to the Sarstoon. And we are reliably informed that they will be going. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

Late this evening, Maheia told News Five that the group has been seeing even more interest in this trip to the Sarstoon, and the problem has become sourcing additional transportation – boats to get members of this expedition to the Sarstoon.

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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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1 Response for “Sarstoon Trip Still A Go Despite Official Effort to Dissuade Territorial Volunteers”

  1. mel says:

    At this time it is not conducive to peace for the BTV to venture into unchartered waters it could aggravate the crisis and escalate out of proportion. Let us first see what god will do and if nothing is done then BTV can proceed. Guats are clever in using all kind of diplomacy and are masters of deception and distorting the facts. they are swift to respond in coordinated manner including the press is more aggressive than the Belize press in analyzing and forecasting the issue to favor guatemalan cause. Belize is tailing behind guats in all respects and good blind to see they need to change their whole strategy and remove elrington to give a fresh new start with new leaders. Guats response was nationally, regionally and international to the variouis agencies and organizations to make belize look like the aggressor.

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