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Jan 23, 2013

Belize/Guatemala referendum process begins now

The official launch of an education campaign for the October referendum process took place today. To give the event an air of bi-partisanship, both the leader of the opposition and the prime minister addressed the launch. The opposition remained on neutral grounds supporting the process, but stopped short of supporting a Yes vote. The Prime Minister said he supports and so does his cabinet, but he is allowing a vote of conscience for cabinet members. The proceedings were planned to be executed with precision, but a protest got in the way.   News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports from the Radisson.

 

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Prior to the launch of the education campaign, the first noteworthy sight were several flags that said “NO ICJ” at the flag monument at the entrance to Belize City. But later this morning, the clergy, diplomats, students and others packed the conference room for the start of what should be a perfect process to end the dispute and keep Belize’s borders intact. The video presentation failed, but it was followed by a speech by the Chairman of the Referendum Committee.

 

James Murphy

James Murphy, Chairman of the Referendum Committee

“Today the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will launch its public awareness campaign preparatory to a referendum on October sixth to determine whether the people of Belize support referring the Guatemalan claim to the International Court of Justice for final settlement. To date, the Foreign Ministry’s referendum unit with vital support from research facilitators has made presentations at schools in Punta Gorda Town, San Ignacio Town and Orange Walk Town in addition to Belmopan. reactions from the young people to the presentations were mixed but I can tell you all very enthusiastic.”

 

Leader of the Opposition, Francis Fonseca, pledged his party’s commitment to the process though they have not made up their decision for a yes or no vote.

 

Francis Fonseca

Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition

“Our party will engage in an internal education campaign for its members and supporters at the end of which the party will convene at party council to adopt its official position on this question. The public education campaign must be free from bias and must present to the Belizean people a comprehensive objective analysis not only of the proposed question, but also of the benefits and risks inherent in submitting ourselves to the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice. The proposed question itself leads to important further questions. What is in fact Guatemala’s legal claim against Belize? What specific land insular territories and maritime areas form a part of the claim? What exactly is the role and function of the International Court of Justice? And how is final settlement defined by the Court.”

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow gave the main address in which he pledged the support of the government and his party for a ‘yes’ vote.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Pursuant to that special agreement signed by Belize and Guatemala in December of 2008, the people of Belize will be asked to determine whether they should agree that we should go to Court to seek the legal affirmation of Belize’s rejection of the Guatemalan claim. Government is committed and obliged to embrace whichever decision the people make by way of their vote in the Referendum. So today we officially launch the public awareness campaign to prepare for the vote on October sixth. The pros and cons of taking our case to the ICJ will be objectively presented in order to help people make an informed decision based on the facts.  Speaking for myself, I have made it clear that I will vote ‘yes,’ but I will strong-arm no one to follow my lead. The cabinet also formally supports a ‘yes’ vote, but individual members are allowed a conscience opt out. Similarly, the national party council of the U.D.P. has agreed to ask the Party’s national convention meeting next month to pass a resolution encouraging a ‘yes’ vote. But constituency leaders and executive members and the rank and file will in the end make up their own minds and be free to vote as they see fit.”

 

Giovanni Brackett

But three dissidents, who showed their flags to the cameras, were removed by the police.

 

Giovanni Brackett, President, COLA

“He signaled we have to leave. You Mister Wil Maheia and Mister Cattouse have to leave. And I said to him clearly that sir, we’ve done nothing wrong and we won’t move. Then he sent for reinforcements; two armed police officers came to move us Belizeans with bulletproof vests. I mean how will you treat us like this? Mister Ortiz, what has Belize come to when we will be removed with arms? Mien I have never picked up an arm in my life. I only know that I have been fighting for this country. Belize dah fu we. Let me relay what the message is. The message is this: that we will ramp up our campaign against going to the ICJ.”

 

Wil Maheia

Wil Maheia

“We cannot afford to roll the dice because that’s what they are trying to do. They are trying to roll the dice on our country. We cannot afford to gamble any sea or any land. Not a blade of grass, not a grain of sand. We cannot afford to gamble that with the ICJ.”

 

Jose Sanchez

“I know you said yes or no votes are okay. However, I am not sure if you are aware that three advocates were removed by the police because they had a small banner that said no to ICJ. I believe a member of COLA and an advocate from P.G., Wil Maheia, were removed by police officers during the presentation.”

 

Dean Barrow

“No I don’t know and I can’t comment on what I don’t know about.”

 

Jose Sanchez

“But they were sitting quietly; they were three rows ahead of me.”

 

Dean Barrow

“Jose, you can tell me anything, man. I did not see. How can you expect me to comment on your report to me on an incident that you say took place? It may have happened just as you say.”

 

Jose Sanchez

“But do you support or don’t support their actions?”

 

Dean Barrow

“I am not going to comment on what I did not observe for myself.”

 

What is visible is the fact that the road to the October referendum will be a rocky one. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

 

The question that Belizeans will be asked to vote on is: “Do you agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize relating to land and insular territories and to any maritime areas pertaining to these territories should be submitted to the International Court of Justice for final settlement and that it determine finally the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of the Parties?”

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19 Responses for “Belize/Guatemala referendum process begins now”

  1. Storm says:

    Hmmm. It seems the PM comments on plenty of other things he never saw with his own eyes, like the alleged shooting at Hon. Musa’s house, etc. Why would he believe that report, and not something that occurred in the same room where he was, by people working for him? Curious.

    I also wonder why the opposition doesn’t have a position on this referendum, not a sudden surprise, and something of existential importance to the nation? Don’t they think ahead about big issues?

    I expect the education campaign to be nothing but spin and lies. Hopefully whoever is hired to do it will still most of the money, and there won’t be much campaign.

    Wil Maheia speaks the truth on this matter.

  2. Storm says:

    My comment above should have read “steal most of the money,” not “still” it.

  3. Belize Supporter says:

    Why is Belize negotiating with Guatamala, there is nothing to negotiate about. Belize is a recognised independant country but by agreeing to negotiate with Guatamala, holding a referendum and going to the CJI seems to show that Guatamala holds a legitamate claim over Belize, which they DONT.

  4. Buju says:

    G-uck
    F-uatemala

  5. Liberty & Freedom says:

    I certainly hope and pray that the people of Belize will vote “NO”. The only people who will benefit from Guatemala taking over Belize are the Guatemalans, Dean Barrow and his cronies and the gang members. Dean Barrow has nothing to lose and everything to gain – money, lots of it for selling out his country. He will leave Belize and move to his home in Florida with a trunk full of dinero. He is a traitor for supporting a yes vote. Belize is a sovereign country – we make our own decisions. We do not need outside entities to make a decision concerning our existence. Who do you think the international community will favor – the big boy next door to Belize. The US, Britain, Israel and other countries sell arms and goods to Guatemala. It is all about money.
    If you value your freedom, vote “NO”.

  6. Belizean Pride says:

    i don’t agree to ICJ we’re a Independent nation not a department of guatemala end of story. if the PM wants to vote yes go ahead cause the jewel is against it totally.
    !. it shows he doesn’t care the risk we’re going to with this case.
    2. what if they win will he leave Belmopan since that is also on the territorial claim area?
    3. what does he plans to do in case we lose with all our brothers and sister in the south?
    4. he can fly to Miami and live there while we stay fighting for ourselves that’s what he wants.
    really, really we can’t trust him anymore nor believe every word he says.

  7. GrigaMan says:

    Hell no to the ICJ. I was born and raised in Griga, and if we lose at the ICJ, Griga will become a part of Guatemala. HELL EFFING NO! I will take up arms and put my life on the line before I give up one grain of sand or one drop of water. NO ICJ!

  8. alley cat says:

    Belize Supporter, I share your position. Storm, the opposition really surprised me on this one, with the exception of Lisa Shoman, I thought they would come out against it. All this just adds to my uneasiness…

  9. ceo says:

    If you are going to lead a country and do not expect any protest especially on a subject this important then you are either nieve or stupid.

    Ok so now you are face to face with someone who does not agree with your idea holding a banner saying just that; so you have them kicked out the meeting and then claim you did not see them! If your story can hold water never mind who is in the room with you especially if they are civil! Dictators bahave this way not leaders of free countries!

    Keep the fight going Wil Hope I can be of some assistance with the cause!

  10. Bear says:

    I’m marching with Grigaman. Lock and load!

  11. Common Sense says:

    Nicaragua V United States ICJ merit 1986 (I think maybe 1984)…read… ’nuff said on this Court.

    Belize DOES NOT need to go to this court, we are a United Nations recognized State (including our Constitution which pinpoints our borders).

  12. aldo says:

    If we win we gain not a damn thing and if we lose we are royally screwed. Tell me do we really have a choice?

  13. RedBwai says:

    Barrow is blind as a bat for him not so see a commotion that took place in the same room he was in…he is running this country like a dictator…basic human rights are being denied to citizens of this country on a daily basis…but what can you expect when the government has the police in their back pockets pulling them like lil pupets on a string. Barrow is a staight up trator!! he voted yes…plain and simple this means he has doubt of our country’s sovereinty…as it is being called into question for even considering going to the ICJ..we can certainly not entertain not a bit of self doubt that Belize isnt ours…i applaud the members of COLA for their support and civil way of protesting going to the ICJ. What Belizeans need to do is boycott the referendum..there isnt even a need to go vote yes or no…by default the referendum wud be null and void because it would not be 60% of voters..

  14. Western says:

    It looks like some of the early comments are opposing going to ICJ. They seem very emotional and short of facts and substance. Let’s get at all the information needed before making a decision. This matter is too important, and must be dealt with logically for the long term benefit of our nation. I am leaning on a yes vote at this time, after getting most of the info available.

  15. James says:

    I do support going to the ICJ. There is no way Belize can lose this case. Let’s get it over once and for all.

    But we must respect the will of the majority!!

  16. ProudBelizean says:

    The reason why Guatemala wants to take this matter to ICJ is because the don’t have anything to loose. If they should loose the case, the won’t lose any land. But if Belize should loose, then we’re screwed. We don’t need to go to ICJ. The are not the ones to decide for our country. We are already acknowledged as a sovereign nation, with set boundaries. Not one inch of our beloved Belize. We need to stand up firm and vote NO! NO to ICJ!

  17. Hubert Johnson says:

    I strongly oppose on the ICJ making decision on the settlement of Guatemala claim to our territory,our ancestors have always said not one sq. centimeter and I maintain the same views. The saying goes if you shoot for the sky ,you might hit the ceiling and that’s exactly what Guatemala is doing in this case, they are now bidding for half of Belize hoping they may get a quarter or less which is still too much, so if Belize is not willing to give up any bit of land then the ICJ must be rejected. The news medias need to sensitize the Belizean public about the many countries around the world that has a border dispute longer than our own and they have not gone to the ICJ, they prefer to fight for the land. Every country in central America has a territorial dispute, recently it was Nicaragua and Costa Rica and most recently it was Nicaragua and Colombia over the San Andres Islands, but Colombia withdrew from the ICJ negotiations. There is no guarantee we will not be asked to give up some lands away the ICJ, so it’s best we just continue with our lives ,we are already recognized as a soup reign nation so to hell with Guatemala if they still want to maintain their claim

  18. Orange walkeno says:

    In 93 us &uk tried to force musa to ceed to guatemala and as mr price rejected their proposition.What can we win from Icj?Nada!!Guatemala will forever be a threat to Belize no matter what.As a people we have to be prepared for this.Time to tell politicians to stop gambling with our jewel.Who knows if they have sliced the jewel pie with their guatemalan compadres.No to ICJ!!!.This is a very serious step which we did not ask for or need.VIVA BELIZE.

  19. RedBwai says:

    Western ..”I am leaning on a yes vote at this time..” ur a big hypocite!!…u havent even gotten any much information but yet ur still jumping to a yes…ur no different that anyone else commenting on this page…its people like you who would rather gamble away your kids and your country’s future jus because of your own ignorance…why should we even entertain any such false claims to Belize by guatemala by going to the ICJ?? it only goes to show them that we Belizeans are in doubt that this entire country truely belongs to us…we shud remain confident in our right as a sovereign nation…no ifs ands or buts about it!! Belize is ours…we dont need no ICJ to come and tell us that and we definately dont need the ICJ to award gautemala any portion of Belize…we have all to loose here and guatemala has all to gain….its not a fair fight so its best not even going to the ICJ…the people will decide an lets hope dat referendum becomes null and void..

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