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May 29, 2015

Former Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay Chimes in on Elrington’s Border Comments

Eamon Courtenay

Former Foreign Minister, Eamon Courtenay, has chimed in on the confrontation between the Belize National Coast Guard and the Guatemalan navy, merely three days after the Special Agreement was amended.  Courtenay’s position puts into sharp perspective recent statements made by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington, in which he discussed Belize’s terrestrial and maritime boundaries.  While Elrington maintains that our borders are not clearly delimited, Courtenay says that the constitution, as well as the Maritime Areas Act patently define Belize’s frontier.


Eamon Courtenay, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

“My understanding of what occurred is that a contingent of coastguard and B.D.F. people were on the island in the Sarstoon River.  Now the island in the Sarstoon River, a part of it is on the north side of the midline and therefore it’s in Belizean territory and another part of it is in Guatemalan territory, on the south side.  Our officers were on our side in preparation for a forward base that they intend to construct there.  They were confronted by Guatemalan navy people and said that they were in Guatemalan territory and they said no.  The Guatemalans left and returned with a much bigger vessel and more people.  There was a standoff and my understanding is that the Guatemalans eventually left.  Now the first point there is that clearly for there to  have been that standoff Guatemalan vessels were in Belizean territory.  They were in the Belize side of the Sarstoon River.  That has to be condemned and I hope the Government of Belize has condemned that in the strongest possible terms privately to the Guatemalan people.  My concern, and my serious concern is this, here it is once again we have a situation where doubt is created on this issue because of utterances from our foreign minister.  It was last night I believe or the night before that the foreign minister was on the television again saying that the land border and the maritime border are in doubt.  It seems to me that it’s very easy for the Guatemalans’ response, if we were to send a protest note, would just be to copy the statements made by Minister Elrington and send it back to Belize and say, “You all are saying, your official is saying, your Minister of Foreign Affairs is saying that we don’t know where Belize is and where Guatemala is in this situation and they will send it and say so you cannot insist that we were in Belizean waters.”  If you don’t know where it is Mr. Elrington you can’t accuse us of being in Belizean territory.  It seems to me that the position of the foreign minister is untenable, he insists on saying that he is unclear of where our borders are.  In so far as the Sarstoon River is concerned the first schedule to our constitution defines that border by reference to the 1859 treaty between the United Kingdom and Guatemala.  In so far as our maritime and territorial EEZ borders and boundaries are concerned that is set out in the Maritime Areas Act.  So I do not understand how it is that the foreign minister can continue to say that there is some confusion about these borders and boundaries.”

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2 Responses for “Former Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay Chimes in on Elrington’s Border Comments”

  1. kmh says:

    Wellington is playing fast and loose with border demarcation for a reason. He is not ignorant. Please find out what he is up to. Is he being compensated by Guatemala for this obfuscation and public statements intended to raise doubts in minds of some segments of Belizen public ahead of Guatemalan referendum. he looks like someone building a golden parachute…

  2. Henry Dueck says:

    What Belize should do is to build roads parallel to the Sarstoon River and the Western Border to act as a marker . They will know that once they cross the road they are definitely in Belize. We also need more development near the border. build some towns or a city. their argument is that there is no clear border as well as no sign of people living in the area (Belizeans aren’t utilizing the area ), so they should have it.

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