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December 23
18:44 2018

By Major Lloyd Jones (Ret’d)

The ICJ push by Belize’s power structure is yet another affront to the peoples of the South. No matter how the proponents of the ICJ dice it, the fact remains that the current ICJ option exposes Belize’s territory. Belize’s southern territory to be exact!

The political power structure has been able to get away with the mistreatment of the South because of a political model that is City-Centric. This model sees power concentrated in the old capital; a concentration of power that sees 22.4% of the voting population controlling 32.3% of the Seats in the House of Representatives.

If we measure strictly by absolute population, the numbers are even more skewed: 17.8% of the population controlling 32.3% of the seats. Contrast that with the Toledo and Stann Creek districts which, combined, have 15.14% of the voting population but control only 12.9% of the seats (4).

The primary reason why Belize’s power structure has been able to neglect the South is because of the disunity of the peoples south of the Sibun. The Mayas and the Garinagu are concentrated in the South, the former is recognized as an indigenous people, and the latter is beginning to assert that they too are indigenous. Notwithstanding this fact, ethnicity has not been sufficient a force to create the kind of unity south of the Sibun that would get Belize City’s attention.

Ethnicity in some other parts of the world is used as a unifying factor and so it baffles many when they look at Belize’s ethnic tapestry. In many ways Belize’s ethnic dormancy is a good thing because whereas ethnicity can be a unifying force it has often been the trigger for armed conflict and bitter, murderous ethnic rivalries.

It is my view that politics has been the antidote to ethnic concentrations of power; as such it is politics that has been the bedrock upon which the disunity of the South is built. It seems as though political forces pull stronger than those of ethnicity and so the power structure has been allowed to under-develop the South without any political consequences. The South has been Red and the South has been Blue but the South has never been united. This is so because it is Party politics that drives Southern psyche.

Isn’t it then, such an irony that both the Red and the Blue have exposed all of our territory south of the Sibun by the manner in which they have handled Guatemala’s unfounded claim? Political loyalties south of the Sibun were not enough for the power structure to resist the temptation to gamble with our territory in the name of “peace.” In other words the people of the South love their Party more than their Party loves them; and more than they love themselves it seems.

The South is one of the richest parts of Belize and it is one of the most productive. Its economy is agriculture and tourism based and its potential is endless. But the South is still the most underdeveloped part of the country when one zooms in at the individual level. There are some wretched levels of poverty south of the Sibun and there is no relief in sight.

The proponents of the Yes vote have been telling the Belizean people that the reason why the South is where it is developmentally is because of the unfounded Guatemalan claim. And true to form, some people south of the Sibun have swallowed this deceptive message from their political masters; the same masters responsible for their underdevelopment. It is not Guatemala’s unfounded claim that is responsible for the South’s underdevelopment, it is poor political leadership. It is greed by the politically connected and it is corruption. Take your pick of the aforementioned things and you would be right, but choose Guatemala’s unfounded claim and you would be wrong.

If the area south of the Sibun was an independent country it would, in terms of size, be larger than all the countries in CARICOM save for Guyana, Suriname and Haiti. Combined, the Toledo, Stann Creek and Cayo districts total 4,696 square miles (1,704, 986 and 2,006 square miles respectively) and have a total population, in 2016, of 167,466.

In terms of critical infrastructure the peoples south of the Sibun have a deep water port, a world class cruise port and an international airport that, once functional, would rival the PGIA. Their communications needs could therefore be easily met.
Economically, the South’s agro-productive sector is responsible for a huge chuck of Belize’s foreign exchange earnings: citrus, bananas and cacao. And the tourism gem that is Placencia is second only to San Pedro.

It is all of these things that Belize placed on the line when it agreed to go to the ICJ in the manner it did. If the City-centric power structure is prepared to gamble with our territory south of the Sibun then maybe something new should emerge south of the Sibun.
As it is written.

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