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Nov 6, 2018

Robert Leslie: ‘My Take on the Referendum in Belize – Food for Thought’

Robert Leslie

As the debate on whether Belize should take Guatemala’s claim to the I.C.J. for final resolution rages on, several political and social figures have weighed in on the matter. Now, Assad Shoman is known to support taking Guatemala’s claim to the I.C.J.; his literary works on the topic have provided significant insight as to why Belize should. Belize’s former Prime Minister, Said Musa, has indicated that he supports a ‘yes’ vote. Both men have a deep understanding of the dispute, what all is at stake and possible outcomes if the judges of the I.C.J. hand down a ruling many years after.  A great number of years of their political and diplomatic lives have been intertwined with the ‘claim’.  The same can be said for Ambassador Robert Leslie.  Leslie is known as a foremost diplomat with a career spanning decades. He has enjoyed close ties with Shoman and Musa. Leslie has served as Assistant Secretary for the Foreign Affairs Unit in the mid seventies and Secretary of the Cabinet during the Musa Administration. He also served as representative of Belize to the United Nations General Assembly in the early eighties. He too has deep understanding of the territorial claim.  Like his colleagues, Leslie has weighed in on the matter, penning a three hundred and sixty-four word article. He makes some significant observations. In the article entitled ‘My Take on the Referendum in Belize—Food for Thought,’ Leslie challenges the Barrow Administration which is pushing a ‘yes’ vote. He refers to G.O.B.’s claims that all diplomatic options to settle the dispute have been exhausted and the final and only alternative available is the International Court of Justice. To this, Leslie says, “when leaders run out of options, they run out of ideas; and when you run out of ideas, it is time to step aside and allow others who have ideas to take over. Where leaders lack vision, the nation perishes. I am not prepared to see my beloved Belize perish under visionless leaders.” In his third paragraph, Leslie addresses Belize’s legal case, saying, “I have no doubt that Guatemala’s so-called claim has no basis in fact, in law, or in history.  There is a plethora of legal opinions, international treaties, scholarly works and international legal precedents that we can use to dismiss their posture as an expansionist move, a land grab, which has no place in the geo-politics of this region or this century.”  Leslie interprets a ‘No’ vote in the referendum as a vote of no confidence in the political leadership.  According to Leslie, in such instances, the decent thing to do would be for leaders to resign, but says “we all know that decency is not in the currency of the current political leadership.” Leslie is also predicting an early general election in late 2019.  Now, he has generally stayed out of public life, and didn’t want to go on camera, but his thinking is in the article.

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