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Belize, Guatemala and the ICJ…Between these lines

Posted: Monday, April 23, 2018. 11:25 a.m. CST.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.

By Glenn Tillett: Between these lines …
Incredibly for me at least, over the past weekend I got 4 phone calls inquiring as to my opinion(s) regarding Belize recoursing to the ICJ, had several discussions here on Facebook, as well as several in real life, and that continues today.

A few years ago, I was once one of the facilitators to the Referendum Unit’s public education project and after I thought it had started well, I became very discomfited by Foreign Minister Sedi Elrington’s statements and was preparing to formally tender my resignation and withdrawal when they decided to cut back on the effort ostensibly for financial reasons. In my opinion the Referendum Unit became more a bureaucratic exercise and dormant after that anyway.

I began considering the matter of taking the Guatemalan claim to the ICJ for adjudication in October 1991 following a chance encounter and conversation with the late professor and ambassador Edward Laing, one of our most accomplished and respected legal scholars and practitioners.

It was reinforced by subsequent conversations with the late Phillip Goldson whom I thought was of the opinion that while he had grave reservations about the ability of the Government of Belize to successfully prosecute the matter, firmly believed that it was necessary that we try our utmost to get the claim before the world court.

I did not immediately agree with both learned gentlemen’s opinion but my own attempt at education over the years subsequently persuaded me to my current opinion that I am likely to vote yes, could still abstain from voting since like Mr. Goldson I have reservations and I am gravely perturbed by Mr. Elrington and the Barrow administration management of our relationship with Guatemala, but I am confident that I would not vote no.

I would not seek to wilfully persuade anyone how to vote in the matter or specifically to vote yes. I believe that each and all of us must undertake in good faith and as our duty as citizens to formulate an opinion and act on what has been and is an issue of overwhelming national importance. As with all issues whenever anyone, respectfully, politely, ask for my opinion I am glad to proffer same.
A friend asked me this morning: “… thanks Glen I respect your honesty and always appreciate positions always, last question, what made you go from such a reasonable position of not give up anything, to a gamble that can see us lose more than haft of your country?”

I replied: “… Firstly I think simply because we have had to argue for the credibility and validity of our claim to Belize’s 8,667 square miles in every other forum in the world, except for the ICJ and in Guatemala itself, and won, I have no reason to expect anything different from an ICJ ruling.
When we started that process almost 50 years ago, the majority of the world’s other nations agreed with Guatemala, today none do.

I also to date have not seen any other credible alternative to bringing us nearer to ending the dispute as quickly and as efficiently as recoursing to the world court for its judgment.

Guatemala has agreed, in writing and in its pledge to all the other nations of this world, that it will respect the ruling. A deviation means further isolation, the very thing that has brought them to this point. They have resisted a judgment on the legal merits of their claim for decades. This represents their last gasp short of (further incursions) a military invasion.

Yes, there is the possibility of litigation risk but in my opinion, its probability is minimal, very, very minimal.

Yes, I may hesitate because I am discomfited and perturbed by the statements and actions of the Barrow administration and in particular foreign minister Sedi Elrington, and so there remains a credible chance that I may choose not to vote any at all solely because of those aforementioned reasons.

The ICJ is a lot less expensive than building and maintaining a standing army capable of deterring a Guatemalan military invasion until and if other nations would come to our rescue, and would be a lot less cheaper and less time consuming than re-lobbying the rest of the world to tell Guatemala to leave fu we Belize alone I suppose, a strategy that has provably not succeeded in getting them to do that.”

 

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