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Oct 5, 2015

P.U.P. Condemns Statement and Stance of FM Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington

The Foreign Minister’s speech to the United Nations in New York on Friday is causing a firestorm.  While it is not the first time that Wilfred “Sedi’’ Elrington has come under fire for his pronouncements on the Guatemalan territorial dispute, his statement to the UN, about a minute or so at the very end, is raising ire in many quarters.  Whether Elrington was deliberate or not, the directness of his statement, left no ambiguity as it relates to taking the claim to the International Court of Justice, without referenda in both countries.  This morning, the P.U.P. leader and four ex-foreign ministers were at a press conference at which they said that Belize has lost ground literally and on the diplomatic stage. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The long-standing territorial dispute with Guatemala, more recently its claim over Sarstoon Island, remains a contentious issue.  The manner in which the situation is being handled by the Barrow administration, particularly Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington, is a moot point.


Wilfred ‘Sedi’ Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“Earlier this year, we signed a protocol to the special agreement between Belize and Guatemala to submit Guatemala’s territorial, insular and maritime claim to our country to the International Court of Justice.  We expect that this will facilitate and speed up the process to finally and definitively put an end to the unfounded claims that have plagued us and our region for far too long.  I thank you Mr. President.”


The subject of heavy criticism, Elrington’s speech at the seventieth regular session of the United Nations General Assembly is widely panned for failure to describe recent hostilities by Guatemala, in respect of the unfounded claim.


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

“Under the very poor management of the United Democratic Party government we have lost on the ground and we have lost on the diplomatic stage.  The decision by the United Democratic Party government to change the special agreement to give Guatemala the advantage to choose when Guatemala wants to go to a referendum in Guatemala is a serious tactical blunder committed by the United Democratic Party government.”


That error in strategy, the result of an amended special agreement signed in Guatemala City on May twenty-fifth by foreign ministers Wilfred Elrington and Carlos Raul Moreno, preceded the BTV’s expedition to Sarstoon Island in mid-August.  The subsequent diplomatic protest note, as well as the terse response from the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, following a confrontation between the Guatemalan navy and the Belize Territorial Volunteers are details that were omitted from Friday’s address.


Lisa Shoman

Lisa Shoman, Opposition Representative, Bi-lateral Commission

“The Government of Guatemala stated that it categorically rejects the diplomatic note of Belize and the affirmations made therein by the Government of Belize in respect to what they call an incursion of Guatemalan armed forces into “alleged” Belizean waters in respect of the Sarstoon River.  Guatemala, in its note, asserts that it does not recognize the existence of borders with Belize and that it considers that the Sarstoon River and the islet situated at its mouth is Guatemalan territory and therefore any foreign national who visits without the permission of the Guatemalan authorities could be considered illegal and subject to Guatemalan law.”


Party Leader Francis Fonseca, on behalf of the PUP, has also registered his objection to Elrington’s pronouncement.


Francis Fonseca

Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition

“The People’s United Party rejects Minister Elrington stating on the worlds stage, as our representative, that the protocol he signed with Guatemala will facilitate and speed up the process of going to the ICJ.  The people of Belize have an absolute legal and democratic right to be consulted and to reject such an option.  At no point during his speech did Elrington ever say that there must first be a referenda in Belize and Guatemala in order to approve any such submission.  The failure of Elrington to inform the United Nations that referenda are required in both countries before any case can be submitted to the International Court of Justice was, in our view, a deliberate misrepresentation of the applicable facts and law.”


As neighboring countries, Guatemala must exist harmoniously with Belize since, according to former Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay, a resolution to the claim at the International Court of Justice will only serve to identify and delineate the existing boundaries.


Eamon Courtenay

“The ICJ can only resolve where the borders are and we say that Guatemala must start behaving itself like a good neighbor and if it doesn’t do that then we have to respond appropriately on each occasion; steadfastly and putting forward the Belizean interest first.  We are here condemning in no uncertain terms the incompetence of Wilfred Elrington and the silence of Dean Barrow on this issue.  Make no mistake about it; Dean Barrow is just as responsible for this issue as is Wilfred Elrington.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


Several attempts were made to contact the Foreign Minister for clarity, but we didn’t get a response.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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