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All Or Noting

All Or Noting
February 08
10:05 2019

By: Assad Shoman –

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from a presentation in Dangriga on the ICJ by Assad Shoman. Shoman has been clear in his conviction that Belizeans should vote YES to the ICJ on Referendum Day, April 10, 2019. We invite your comments as the Reporter continues to encourage a healthy debate on what is the most critical issue of our time. Send your comments to

Two years ago today, humanity lost its best friend, Fidel Castro. This is not the place to extol the great good he did for Cuba and for the world, just to recall the words of Prime Minister Barrow last Friday: “it was Fidel’s Cuba that moved fast and stood firm in support of our drive to Independence and self-determination,” a sentiment echoed by Hon. Cordel Hyde in the most succinct and elegant manner: “the godfather of our independence movement . . . we are because of him.”

It was in February 1975 that Guatemala made its first demand for a large part of Belize’s territory in return for recognizing the rest as an independent country. They demanded that the area of Belize below 16 degrees 30 minutes (just south of Placencia) be incorporated into Guatemala. We rejected it completely, or any territorial cession, but the British insisted on continuing to negotiate, and tried to get us to give up some land. This demand made it possible for us to insist on what we had been urging for years: to take the case to the United Nations. When we did, we insisted on including in our resolution the principle of territorial integrity. Although the British fought this tooth and nail—and I know how bitter the fight was, because I drafted the resolution, with the help of Bobby Leslie and four Caribbean ambassadors—we won.

We won because by that time, with the worldwide decolonization movement making great strides in Africa especially, the principles and the Law of Nations had changed to favour the right of colonized peoples to independence. By 1975, the right of colonized peoples to self-determination was already recognized. That right belongs to the colonized people of a single territorial unit. The preservation of the territorial integrity of that unit prior to the exercise of the right of self-determination is an inherent part of that right, and obliges the colonizing power not to take any measure that would prevent the people in question from being able to determine the political future of the entirety of the territorial unit. In this case, from the Hondo to the Sarstoon.

We therefore were able to face down the British for 7 years, refusing all their attempts to make us give up land. We had to do so cleverly, using the resistance and survival methods of Bra Anansi, because we needed them to provide a military defence against Guatemala. And so, when they would come with pressure to give up land below the Moho River, Mr. Price would tell them, ay, man, but my Garifuna people live in Barranco, and my Maya people have settlements further south, and stave off their demands for land. We could have just told them to buzz off, they could never force us to give up territory, by the law of nations, but we wanted to pressure them to give us a military defence, and in the end, with the help of Cuba and 138 other countries, we did just that.

Belize became independent with its territory intact, and after all that, after standing up to two great powers and one hostile bully neighbour, do you really think we will just give that up by submitting the dispute to the ICJ?

We are standing and sitting in a land that is south of the Sibun. You must feel threatened, with the Guatemalan rulers seeming to want the very land you are standing on. And those who go around shouting NO TO ICJ are telling you that if you vote YES you will be giving up the south of Belize to Guatemala, filling you with fear and urging you to panic and vote NO without thinking.

You must worry that Southern Belize is in danger, in greater danger than the rest of Belize. People even try to panic you by asking for a Plan B—what plans does government have to evacuate people whose land has been given to Guatemala by the ICJ and compensate them for land, houses, farms and businesses?

They seek to terrify you with fanciful threats that have zero chance of ever materializing. Is Southern Belize really in greater jeopardy if the dispute is referred to the ICJ? Let us learn from our history.

There will be no dismemberment! We are saying defiantly, TAKE ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL. Like we chanted INDEPENDENCE NOW in 1981 and took it, we now demand KEEP BELIZE TOGETHER, and we will achieve it.

I want you to know that we are putting the whole country as one indivisible unit up for the ICJ to confirm our borders with Guatemala. There will be no slicing away, not at the Sibun, nor North Stann Creek, nor the Moho nor the Temash. We are all in this together, and we will all survive.

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