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APRIL 10th. 2019:  BE NOT AFRAID
September 22
16:06 2018

In its drive for the YES vote in the upcoming ICJ referendum,the Barrow administration has relied on two main weapons: fearand half truths.

Belize went to independence on September 21, 1981 under a state of emergency and without a defence guarantee from the British. There were a great many people, including the then opposition (United Democratic Party) who were terrified that Guatemala would have invadedus as soon as we became independent. Thus September 21, 1981 was a frightening time for many in the Jewel. Belizeans have had a tangible fear of Guatemala for decades because we, who are not a warlike people, had good reason to fear Guatemala’s belligerence. The British never taught us to be warlike for two main reasons (1) if we had become brave enough we might have gotten independence a lot earlier than 1981even if by force of arms, and (2) they wanted us to feel defenceless without them so that they would forever be viewed as our protectors. The latter reason is why so many were terrified on September 21, 1981 and why, 37 years after our independence, we still have people talking nonsense about “bring back the Brits.”

Just as Belizeans were scared about what would happen after independence in 1981 so too are Belizeansscared about what will happen ifwe were to vote NO to the ICJ in 2019. In that respect September 21, 1981 and April 10, 2019 are similar:they both would have tested the courage of the Belizean people. History tells us that the people of Belize were brave in September of 1981; the question now is whether they will be brave in April of 2019.

To reiterate, the primary weapon that has been deployed by the Government of Belize to try and secure a YES vote in the ICJ referendum has been fear. No less than the Foreign Minister, in his usual reckless form, is on record saying that it is either the ICJ or war!Some of our so called “Friends,” especially the Brits and the Yanks, may have clothed their language in diplomatic garb, but when they say to us that the ICJ is the best route for the pacific settlement of the unfounded Guatemalan claim they are really saying: “If you refuse to go to the ICJ and Guatemala attempts to use force to settle this matter, you would have brought it upon yourselves!”On April 10, 2019 will the Belizean people show courage in the face of these machinations or will they be overcome with fear?

Besides fear mongering, the Barrow administration has also deployed a second weapon from its arsenal and that ishalf truths. The lie is that we have tried everypossible diplomatic means to solve the unfounded claim; and sincewe have exhausted diplomacy it is nowtime to go to court. What they really should besaying is that they are out of ideas. They should be saying that they lack the diplomatic creativity and alacrity, and so they have chosen the easier, more dangerous, ICJ route.

Sometime ago the distinguished Ambassador Mr. David Gibson pointed us to Article 65 of the Statute of the ICJ. The said Article allows for any of the 5 organs or 16 specialized agencies of the UN to ask the ICJ for an advisory opinionon any legal matter. Whereas the opinion is nonbinding it does have attached to it “the authority of the Court as the principal judicial organ of the United Nations.”The pursuit of the advisory route offers many advantages;principal among them is that it provides beforehand,the political coverage necessary to adopt in part or in whole the declarations of the advisory opinion.An ICJ advisory opinion on the Anglo Guatemalan dispute, answering the four questions set out below,would immediately extinguish Guatemala’s argument leaving that country with no basis to continue its unfounded claim. So if Sedi and company are so sure that the ICJ would rule in our favour, as they keep harping, why did they not choose this route? Why go the adversarial route which is considered to be far more risky?

Interestingly, on June 22, 2017 the Barrow administration voted in favour of Mauritius by supporting the General Assembly Resolution A/RES/71/292 asking for an advisory opinion on “the legal consequences of the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965.” The British had in 1965,separated the Chagos Archipelago from the rest of Mauritius’ territory before granting Mauritius its independence in 1968. The government of Mauritius is now seeking an ICJ advisory opinion, through the General Assembly, on the legal correctness of the underhanded British move.If the advisory opinion says that the British were being devilish when they separated the Chagos Archipelago, Mauritius would then have a sound legal footing to pursue recovery of their territory.So when you hear that Belize, unlike the British, has finally gotten Guatemala to “agree” to go to the ICJ they are asking us to celebrate what could possibly become apyrrhic victory.

The Article 65 advisory opinion route is the best way to address Guatemala’s unfounded claim. It allows for a clear legal opinion without having to risk anything. The fact that such a route has never been explored makes April 10, 2019 an even more important date for the people of Belize. There is not a nation on earth that can cast fault upon the people of Belize for voting NO in that referendum, after all such a plebiscite is the hallmark of any true democracy. Secondly no nation on earth, save for hypocrites, can prescribe for us a medicine that they themselves would never take. The Belizean people shouldnot beafraid on April 10, 2019; they must be brave and reject the ICJ question that is before them.

On April 11, 2019, having rejected the ICJ referendum,the people of Belize should instruct the Barrow administration to immediately commence an aggressive diplomatic campaign to secure a General Assembly resolution to ask the ICJ for an advisory opinion on Guatemala. The advisory opinion should seek to answer four fundamental questions:

(a) “Is the Convention between Her Majesty and the Republic of Guatemala relative to the Boundaries of British Honduras, signed on the 30th of April, 1859, valid and subsisting?”;

(b) “Can the differences between the United Kingdom and Guatemala that arose from the 1859 Convention be transmuted in to any possible differences between Belize and Guatemala such that they impact the boundaries set out in the aforementioned Convention?”;

(c) “Does the actions of the armed forces of the Republic of Guatemala along the Sarstoon River and in particular their actions to preventunimpeded access by Belize to the Sarstoon Island, constitute a breach of the sovereignty of Belize and further constitutes an effective annexation of Belizean territory and is thus in violation of international law, including obligations reflected in General Assembly resolutions 3432 of 8 December 1975; 31/50 of 1 December 1976; 32/32 of 28 November 1977; 33/36 of 13 December 1978; 34/38 of 21 November, 1979 and 35/20 of 11 November 1980?”;

(d) “What are the consequences under international law, including obligations reflected in the above-mentioned resolutions, arising from the continuedeffective control of the Sarstoon River, including the Sarstoon Island, by the armed forces of Guatemala?”

Surely the advisory opinion route would have been a lot easier if Belize had not signed on to the Compromis. The good news is that the people of Belize still have the right to veto the decision of the PUDP, London and Washington by voting NO on April 10, 2019. A worrisome factor however is that, as pointed out by the erudite attorney Mr. Eamon Courtenay, the Referendum Act does not make mandatory the results of any referendum. This is worrying because someone wants us to appear before the ICJ at any cost. We must therefore remain vigilant. Only the people can save the people: on April 10, 2019 be not afraid! Say NO to the ICJ!

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