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Editorial – July 8

July 08
17:37 2018
By. Jackie Fuller

Mr. Shoman continues in his own words: “We cannot let the matter ride. We cannot surrender. We must continue to struggle!”
Today the need to struggle is more urgent than ever because Guatemala has agreed by a substantial referendum, to submit her claim to the International Court of Justice.

If Belize fails to respond in a positive way, the countries of the world, especial- ly our friends who have been supporting Belize and urging us forward, will begin to question our resolve to defend our claim to full sovereignty over our land.

If we Belizeans cannot find the resolve to defend our claim to our homeland in open court, how can we expect others to find the resolve to come to our aid?

There is more. Mr. Shoman recounts in detail the overt and covert actions Guatemala has been taking to make out that Belize needs to obtain permission from the Guatemalan military to visit the Sarstoon. Guatemala has been doing this to establish a status quo to confirm her sovereignty over all of the Sarstoon in contravention of the 1859 Treaty.
Belize has been doggedly insisting that there is no such status quo and that Be- lize has the right historically as well as legally to visit the Sarstoon freely and without impediment.

If Guatemala can put pressure on Belize into accepting that there is a status quo acknowledging Guatemalan sovereignty over all of the Sarstoon, that would amount to a concession by Belize on a key issue defining Belize’s southern boundary.
But Belize has not conceded, and continues to insist that she has a right to use the Sarstoon River whenever she chooses, up to and as far as Gracias a Dios Falls.

In his book Mr. Shoman brings home the urgency of settling the dispute as early as possile and he has some advice for Belizean politicians and would – be politicians. He notes: “We learn from the past. One of the most important lessons is that a people divided can be easily defeated. And so we need to develop, support and cherish unity among our peoples. To accomplish unity there must be dialogue, understanding, tolerance.”

“We need to work together, across political parties, across class, ethnicity, beyond all differences and conciliate a common position that will ensure that the claim is resolved and forevermore cease to be a burden on us and on future generations.”


New voices coming out of the wood-work have been strident in denouncing the International Court of Justice as a remedy for closing out the Belize-Guatemala territorial dispute. But they are quiet and non-responsive about what Belize should be doing to meet the Guatemalan threat.

All parties in Belize are agreed that we are facing a grave problem, but we are divided on what to do about it.
If a person is sick with the flu, he or she runs the risk of his cold developing into a congestion of the chest and eventually into pneumonia if the virus is not contained.

The Guatemalan claim is no different. We must decide on a course of action. To do nothing is a debilitating and feeble response at a time when we need strong, affirmative action.

If Belizeans do not want to take their case to the ICJ, the tribunal designated by the United Nations to deal with such territorial claims, where else can we turn for support and protection?

In his latest book “Guatemala’s claim to Belize,” author-historian Assad Shoman makes the point when he says:“Belize is losing resources as a result of the claim, and … until it ends, there will be greater losses. Only Guatemala profits from the continuance of the claim, and the longer it takes to solve, the more they gain and the more Belize loses.”
“There is an urgent need to end the claim and doing nothing is not an option unless Belizeans don’t care about the losses or about the dangers manifest in not ending the claim.”

He quotes (page 431) the words of Justice Gerald Fitzmaurice, a pre-eminent authority of the ICJ, who observed that:
“… Protests in order to preserve…the rights of the protesting State and prevent the acquisition of a prescriptive right by the acquiring state, must be effective.

“Put in another way this means that diplomatic protests will not indefinite ly preserve rights or prevent the process of prescription unless they constitute the sole means in the circumstances by which the state concerned can act, and can endeavour to keep its position intact.

“If, however, other means are available, e.g. a proposal for reference to international adjudication, or taking the matter before a competent international magisterium, a mere continuance of diplomatic protests will not serve indefinitely to keep the position open.”

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