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Oct 1, 2018

Foreign Minister Sedi Elrington Addresses the UN

Wilfred Elrington

Since the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington, addressed the United Nations one year ago, the government has announced a date for the referendum on whether or not Belizeans want to head to the International Court of Justice to bring resolution to the Guatemalan claim. That date is set for April tenth2019. In Guatemala, in April of this year, less than thirty percent of the population voted yes, in favor of going to the ICJ. On Saturday, when he took the podium at the seventy-third UN General Assembly, many domestic issues were raised by Elrington.  The crippling crime situation formed part of the speech, as did the need to increase access to education, as well as assisting the youth at risk. The minister also pointed out the alarming fact that forty-three percent of Belizeans live below the poverty line. Now as it relates to the I.C.J., Elrington went further this year in respect of the situation at the Sarstoon. He urged Guatemala to agree on a protocol to facilitate the management of incidents that have given rise to tensions.  Here is an excerpt.

 

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Belize

“Indeed, efforts to have the Guatemalan claim resolved at the International Court of Justice eluded the British government for upward of eighty years. Belizeans themselves will soon decide whether the opportunity to bring to a definitive settlement a claim, which has long sown fear in the hearts of all Belizeans and which has hamstrung our nation’s development potential, will in fact be seized.  The significance of the Guatemalan referendum, which ratified the decision of their Government in 2008 to cause their claim to my country to be adjudicated by the I.C.J., should not be lost. For in carrying out the referendum, Guatemala gave effect to their obligation under the Special Agreement that both our countries signed in good faith. At the same time, there is still a pending issue for us to agree on. In continuing that spirit of good faith, we urge Guatemala to agree on a procedure or protocol for confidence building measures on the Sarstoon River, our southern boundary with Guatemala, to facilitate the management of incidents of the kind that gave rise to heightened tensions in 2015 and 2016 between our two countries. Belizeans are on the cusp of a truly rare and felicitous moment in our nation s history. Our voting public, in the finest democratic fashion, is now seized of a once in a lifetime opportunity, to determine the fate of our country. The Government of Belize has appointed April tenth, 2019 as the date for the national referendum. All registered voters will be entitled to cast their ballots signalling either their consent or rejection to having the Guatemalan claim resolved once and for all by the I.C.J.  In preparation for that first historic plebiscite our government has embarked upon a national wide public awareness campaign to ensure that all Belizeans are fully informed about the nature of the claim and why it should be referred to the I.C.J. for resolution.”

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