Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs
By Richard Harrison: Belize is currently facing its greatest foreign affairs challenge in its 35-year history as an independent nation.
Its neighbor, Guatemala, continued to claim part, half or all of Belize, depending on what period and who was in power.
During the recent elections held last November in Guatemala, elected president Jimmy Morales promised that taking Belize would be one of the principal objectives of his government.
Alexis Rosado, Belize Ambassador to Guatemala
During the last six months since his election, he has directed his military to increase its aggression in the border areas, to enter Belize territory at the Sarstoon river and to take complete control of Sarstoon Island, which is at the mouth of the Sarstoon river, and which was always known and respected as Belize territory.
He has used every opportunity, including the recent unfortunate killing by the Belize Defense Force of a Guatemalan teen who entered Belize territory illegally, to spin rhetoric to give “justice” to his cause….while totally ignoring the fact that Belizeans have been killed by illegal Guatemalans in Belize territory as well.
Belize does not claim any part of Guatemala….Belizeans do not enter into Guatemala illegally to use their land, harvest their natural resources nor to kill their people….and the Belize Defence Force does not enter willfully into Guatemalan territory.
Yet….political observers worry that Belize does not currently enjoy the international sympathy it once had in support of its independence and territorial integrity. There is a feeling that Guatemala has a much more organized and effective public relations and international relations campaign.
There are reasons for this:
1.) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not have a set of concise and precise OBJECTIVES that are clearly and regularly updated and articulated to a coordinated national and international effort. Every person and office is paddling their own canoe, having developed turfs that are closely guarded. To a significant extent, the “think tank” that guides foreign affairs does not exist except during emergencies, and generally follows the unilateral political directorate of the party in power and their special interests, and not one of national unity and representation. The Belizean people are mostly un-informed, ill-informed, mis-informed or mal-informed…causing general confusion and lack of unity of direction. STRATEGY should follow OBJECTIVES.
2.) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been overloaded with politically connected individuals who are mostly serving their own interest, and not that of the nation….whether it be for fun, travel, social status or business connections….having a field day….often behaving aloof and with lack of discretion, commanding little or no respect….they are mostly untrained in the professional management of foreign affairs issues. The PEOPLE are generally not fit for the POSITIONS. PEOPLE should fit the PURPOSE.
3.) There is no defined periodic standard reporting required by staff and management….nor performance appraisal and management audits conducted on the personnel and offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to confirm or disprove that objectives are being met…and to continuously refine and define the way forward. There is no STRUCTURED SYSTEM, nor MANAGEMENT of a system in place…..hence, there is no measurable BANG for the BUCK. FORM should follow FUNCTION.
4.) The first three reasons explains why the linkages and relations with international players, organizations and institutions, private and public, have been weakened over the years, and why empathy, sympathy and active support for our cause for an INDEPENDENT and SOVEREIGN Belize seems to have waned.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs needs an urgent overhaul. You cannot continue doing the same things with the same people and expect different results.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Masters in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.
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