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Nov 30, 2016

No Agreement on Special Agreement as Opposition Asks: What’s The Rush?

The Senate met for its latest session today at the National Assembly in Belmopan with a full agenda. Thirteen motions were tabled for debate and consideration, of which ten were particularly significant. The Upper House was asked to ratify both the original Special Agreement between Belize and Guatemala, formalizing the process of potentially resolving the unfounded Guatemalan claim to Belizean territory, and a subsequent protocol signed in Guatemala City last May. However, as of the end of the Senate meeting, it is still before the Constitution and Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate, which in practice consists of the entire membership of the Senate. In brief, the main agreement sets out how and if the claim will be taken to the International Court of Justice for settlement, and the protocol allows Guatemala to hold their referendum on going to the I.C.J. separately from Belize. It has been a week shy of eight years since the Agreement was first signed in Washington, D.C., and about fifteen months after the accompanying protocol was signed in Guatemala City. Lead Opposition Senator Eamon Courtenay, as a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, is intimately familiar with the Guatemala situation, and in his view, while things have dragged on for long enough, there is no answer as to why the Government is acting now to ratify the Agreements, especially considering Guatemala’s current aggressive stance – withdrawing its ambassador, harassing soldiers and civilians in the Sarstoon and disestablishing communication at the diplomatic level. Meanwhile, fellow Opposition Senator Paul Thompson wondered if the road to hell for Belize has already been paved with good intentions.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“It is remarkable to us that the Government of Guatemala has withdrawn its Ambassador to Belize. He has not yet returned to his post, which is a diplomatic insult to Belize. In those circumstances, we reject any attempt to move this process forward. When full ambassadorial relations – and I mean a presence in Belize – is established, then we can begin talking about moving forward with this process. Tenth of November, Guatemalan Armed Forces detained, stopped SATIIM from going up our side of the Sarstoon River. That is unacceptable, Madam President, and there has been no reasoned or rational explanation from the Government of Guatemala or the Government of Belize as to how that matter has been resolved. It is remarkable; it is remarkable, that the Foreign Minister of Belize can tell us that his colleague is not taking his calls. They can’t arrange a meeting. To quote the Foreign Minister, that he has tried to engage the Foreign Minister, but he is not disposed to sit with us yet; and neither is he disposed to cause his technical people to sit with our technical people to work, and so we haven’t made any headway on that front, speaking about the Sarstoon Protocol. If that is the way the Government of Guatemala behaves, if that is the way the Foreign Minister of Guatemala behaves, then why is it that we are moving forward at this particular time? We say that now is not the appropriate time for us to be dealing with this issue. It was on the seventeenth of October of this year, six Belizeans detained by Guatemalan military forces, and they were told, by the Guatemalans, that Belize has only three miles in the southern waters; all the rest is for Guatemala. We still have no explanation as to how that matter has been resolved.”

 

Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson, P.U.P. Senator

“They have been saying to us that the people of Belize will be the ones to decide whether we go to the I.C.J., but I believe that is really a farce. I believe that this matter of the I.C.J. has been decided for us – let me explain why. Mister President, in Article One of the Protocol to the Special Agreement between Belize and Guatemala, the two parties have committed to ensure that through active public information efforts, our citizenry will be, quote, formally informed of the differences of the two parties in respect of Guatemala’s territorial, insular and maritime claim, and of the need to resolve them finally and definitively in the International Court of Justice. Unquote. The first part, to actively inform the people of our differences, is quite alright; but the last part, which calls for us to fully inform them of, quote, need to resolve the differences finally and definitively in the International Court of Justice, is most troubling, Mister President. Mister President, our Government has committed to their international friends that the I.C.J. is the way to go. In that case, we can forget about a balanced information campaign.”

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