By Paco Smith
Belizeans and true friends of Belize,
It is September in Belize and, as per usual, it is filled with excitement and lots of festivities. Yet, given the current status of matters in Belize, I am compelled to ponder, “What precisely are we celebrating?” I pose this question given the existential threat to Belize’s current reality, due to Guatemala’s unfounded claim to our sovereign territory. This threat only persists, which makes it a reality, it increases with each day!
Meanwhile our so-called “Honourable Representatives” continue to pussyfoot and acquiesce to the whims of our neighbour to the west, the very same aforesaid neighbour continues its backdoor and underhanded activities by encouraging its citizens to encroach on and expand into our sovereign territory. That alone is irresponsible, but the lack of conviction by elected Belizean authorities to take effective and sustained strategic action, is an indictment of negligence from within.
Local media outlets have highlighted not only are these Guatemalan usurpers trespassing and exploiting our natural resources, it has become evident they are moving toward enacting more, permanent activities. Not only is it troubling that they occupy our lands but, to boot, they are doing it in our protected areas. The link to the article also explains that an apparent surveying of the land is underway, complete with the placing of survey pegs, to demarcate areas, all being done by Guatemalans, within Belizean territory!
I give due respect to the members of the Friends for Conservation Development (FCD), who are on the frontline, doing their best to impede, stave off and thwart the intentional easterly expansion of the Guatemalan element. Needless to say, their job is taxing and I am quite certain that resources are at a premium.
With this in mind, I highlight that those whom I deem to be the proverbial culprits who, via their seemingly uninformed perspective and myopic-antiquated approach to dealing with Guatemala’s intransigence, have served fundamentally to facilitate the Guatemalan advance into Belizean territory. I seriously doubt that a specific identification is necessary, for the decisions and events leading to our present situation are well documented.
Even before their once much-vaunted, Compromis the wheels of deception and most significantly those which emanate from inside the confines of our border, began to become more overt, with the passing of the Maritime Areas Act (MAA). Very instructively, via a recent three-part Internet Blog Talk Show, “Echoing Voices from the Belizean Diaspora, The Hubert Pipersburgh Show — Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 — former minister of government Mr Derek Aikman shed a compelling degree of light on the genesis of the aforementioned Act, which in my estimation quite simply proved an affront to the territorial integrity of our nation.
I don’t know about you, but as far as I am concerned, when it comes to this matter of national security, both sides have failed miserably.
Of note, Mr Aikman explained that it was none other than the current prime minister of Belize, who in 1992, as Belize’s foreign minister, almost unilaterally agreed to the terms of what became the MAA. In effect, it set the stage for the GOB’s policy of: accommodation, appeasement and acquiescence in dealing with Guatemala’s unfounded claim.
In my estimation no Belizean should have qualms in asking the question: “For what compelling reason should Belize have given Guatemala, by virtue of the Maritime Areas Act, access to the Caribbean coast, which they already enjoyed as a result of that nation’s geographic location?”
Hence the stage was ultimately set for Guatemala’s aggressive and sustained push, both maritime and terrestrial, onto Belizean territory. As a result, this has been manifest in the form of: Guatemala’s unfettered use of our Cayes in the south (e.g. Hunting Caye), leading to the impingement on our territory in the western part of the country, the downgrading of our border to that of an adjacency zone by way of the OAS-sponsored Compromis and ultimately into the farcical call by the GOB and its Guatemalan counterpart, to have Belizeans take part in a referendum on whether or not to take their bogus claim to the International Court of Justice.
With this backdrop, it is no wonder the PM has remained almost entirely circumspect, if not mute, concerning the latter.
Therefore, I contend the quagmire in which Belize finds itself with regard to not only Guatemala’s unfounded claim, but also the aggressive, continued and outright unimpeded infringement on Belize’s sovereign territory is, in many regards, self-inflicted. I hold this position because of the aforementioned history, as well as the diminutive and defeatist stance and subsequent actions by successive government administrations on both sides of the PUDP non-divide.
Neither the UDP nor the PUP have demonstrated the insight, capacity, will, nor the wherewithal to analyse this matter of national importance and develop a well-thought-out policy concerning Guatemala and its intentions, which do not bode well for the continued existence of Belize, in its current geographic reality. If one exists, it either has not been shared with the Belizean people and, to make matters absolutely clear, I am not talking about any bipartisan decision to go through the motions of an OAS-brokered series of confidence-building measures between the two nations. I am speaking of a definitive policy concerning Belize’s perspective, strategy and actions involving our neighbour to the west, which is claiming approximately half our physical land mass, which is depicted in this picture.
The impotency of consecutive PUDP Government of Belize (GOB) administrations on this matter has proven both ineffective and untenable. In 1981 we gained our independence as a sovereign nation, acknowledged by all who mattered, with our territory intact. For the sake of clarity, that included an internationally recognised border. Today, the GOB has conceded to the extent that they give credence to a man-made concept, often referred to as the adjacency zone.
My people, such is more than an affront to our territorial integrity and sovereignty; it is basically an open invitation for the government of Guatemala, under the cloak of the OAS’s initiative, to encourage its citizens to occupy and exploit Belizean territory. If you may have any question as to whether or not this is the case, I contend that you check the local Belizean media to judge for yourself. Again, I reiterate that not only does it persist… it is increasing.
With this in mind, I wish all Belizeans and true friends of Belize, both at home and abroad, an enjoyable Independence Day and National September Celebrations. Meanwhile, amid the revelry on 21st September and all days leading to it, I challenge you take a moment and ponder, given the aforementioned backdrop, “What precisely are we are celebrating, given that Guatemalans are being allowed to illegally: enter, occupy and exploit our national territory?”
All this is being done, while both the UDP and the PUP sit idly by and offer no distinguishable leadership in this regard. I urge you to take a sober look at our nation-state and its current status on this and all fronts. Then ask whether you feel as though either side of the PUDP non-divide has served this nation and our people, accordingly.
I don’t know about you, but as far as I am concerned, when it comes to this matter of national security, both sides have failed miserably and, of course, their myopic and stillborn approach toward the fundamental issue of securing our border, is but a prelude to the glaring disparities which are synonymous with the lack of good governance and its accompanying decay of law and order in our beloved nation.
The Hon. Philip S. W. Goldson famously once said, “The time to save your country is before you lose it.” Sadly enough if we continue on this disruptive and illogical obsession with the supporting the dysfunctional PUDP, we shall succeed in failing not only ourselves but future generations of Belizeans.
With this in mind, I first encourage you to boycott any referendum that is called, regarding Guatemala’s unfounded claim and second, once any form of election, be it municipal or general, is afoot and you have an alternative to the PUDP, I implore you to conduct your due diligence and kindly embrace something new. This is my stance because maintaining our current, political path shall yield nothing better. The time for a paradigm shift has long since arrived.
Although still in the stage of formulation, by the grace of the Almighty, Belizeans shall have at least one viable alternative to the PUDP in their respective electoral constituencies, by way of the Belize Unity Alliance (BUA). Therefore, remain attuned, sleep wid yu own eye and be on the lookout for more information concerning the BUA, policy prescriptions on topical issues, its initiatives and other matters, vital to Belize’s growth and progress.
Think about it…
Belize, Sovereign and Free – NO ICJ!
Other, related grassroots initiatives can be accessed via the following links: