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Jan 9, 2019

Declaration by Former Foreign Ministers of Belize in Favor of I.C.J.

It was a rare appearance by four People’s United Party former foreign ministers and Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who has also served as foreign minister. This morning they stood united on stage at the Biltmore Plaza where there was only standing room, shaking off the political mudslinging that has characterized the relationship between the P.U.P. and U.D.P., especially in the House.  At the core of the gathering is an issue of tremendous national importance, the April tenth Referendum on taking the Guatemalan claim to the International Court of Justice. The five each signed off on a seven-point declaration urging Belizeans to vote YES, a position which is being advocated by the government as it gets the campaign on full gear. We have detailed coverage of the event today and we start with the declaration.


Godfrey Smith

Godfrey Smith, Former Foreign Minister

“The idea was generated from among the foreign ministers themselves.  It’s a question of duty, honor and principle and it’s as simple as that.”


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The coming together of five former Ministers of Foreign Affairs from both sides of the political divide, including Prime Minister Dean Barrow, to take a unified position in favor of going to the International Court of Justice to resolve the Belize/Guatemala territorial dispute is historic.  This important event leading up to the April tenth referendum transcends party lines.  For them, it is a singular view being taken in the best interest of the country.


Said Musa

Said Musa, Former Foreign Minister

“We need to put party politics aside.  This is too big an issue.  This is the national… we’re talking about our country now.”


To seal the accord, each previous foreign minister, with the exception of Senator Eamon Courtenay, has signed onto a seven-point declaration strongly urging a ‘yes’ vote for Belize to take the claim before the I.C.J.


Lisa Shoman

Lisa Shoman, Former Foreign Minister

“We, former Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Belize from 1984 to 2008, after careful consideration of whether Belize should submit the Guatemalan territorial claim to the International Court of Justice (I.C.J.), this ninth day of January 2019, declare the following: 1. After more than fifty years of arduous negotiations, it has become clear that no Guatemalan government will ever agree to voluntarily accept Belize’s territorial integrity based on the 1859 Treaty.  2.  Although Belize’s borders are recognized and supported by the international community, the Guatemalan government has responded to that moral mandate with intransigent reaffirmations of its anachronistic claim to Belize’s territory.  The only certain way to get the Guatemalan government to recognize our legitimate border is through a binding I.C.J. order.”


While that may be the conclusion drawn by erstwhile chief diplomats Assad Shoman, Said Musa, Dean Barrow, Godfrey Smith and Lisa Shoman, there is a very real likelihood that the masses of voters will say no to the I.C.J. on referendum day.


Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“What then happens if in fact there is a no vote?  Well clearly there will be negative consequences.  Our going to the I.C.J. is a matter of our sovereign choice but it is something that has been encouraged, strongly urged upon us by the international community, the very international community that has for so long supported our right to self-determination or our right to sovereignty and territorial integrity.  But that international community has recognized that all its fine declarations, all its grand statements of support for Belize and Belize‘s territorial integrity has not resulted in the Guatemalans withdrawing their claim.”


A decision not to proceed with the longstanding matter to the UN judicial body means that Belize may experience negative reaction from other countries, however, it does not suggest that the country will be invaded by Guatemala.


Dean Barrow

“If we don’t go, we certainly are going to experience some blowback from the international community.  I’ve been careful to indicate that in urging people to go and in pointing out what are the benefits of going, and in saying to people conversely if we don’t go there is a great deal of demerit to that course of action.  We ought not to frame things in such a way that we can be accused of fear mongering.  If we don’t go, the negative consequences, the fact that the international community will look askance at us won’t mean that the day after a no-vote the Guatemalans will believe that they are able to march into our country and occupy Belize by force and press their claim in consequence of some sort of military position.”


On the other hand, should the claim not be settled at the ICJ, the Guatemalan government will continue to maintain that there are no borders between the two countries.


Lisa Shoman

“The declaration makes it abundantly clear that there is a cost and an impact to inaction and that is something that we have to absorb and internalize and understand, that doing nothing has a cost and that we are laying a burden on our children if we don’t look for a way to resolve this within our own lifetimes.”


Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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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1 Response for “Declaration by Former Foreign Ministers of Belize in Favor of I.C.J.”

  1. Marie says:

    Agreed with Lisa, we need to stop fearing and take it to ICJ, this way Guatemala needs to stop harrassment because in the eyes of other countries if they continue it will be an invasion.

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