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The ICJ Referendum: 10 Weeks to Decision day

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Posted: Wednesday, January 9, 2019. 6:11 pm CST.

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

By Francis Fonseca:

 

AREA REPRESENTATIVE

FREETOWN

January 9, 2019

I listened with great interest to the Prime Minister’s Press Conference featuring former Foreign Ministers of Belize.

These former Foreign Ministers are personal friends for whom I have great respect. I know them each to be strong, intelligent, independent persons who have every right to share their expertise and experience with the Belizean people. We are all better served by having them do so. Their views should carry weight and form a part of the dialogue leading up to decision day April 10th, 2019.

Each of us has a right to our own point of view on this very important question of whether or not Belize should submit to the jurisdiction of the ICJ for final determination of the unresolved, unfounded Guatemalan claim.

It is my hope and expectation that in the remaining 10 weeks leading up to April 10th all Belizeans will have an opportunity to be fully and properly informed with relevant and factual data. We must all do our very best to be guided by facts and not solely by emotions. Neither side in this important national discussion has greater moral authority than the other. We must understand this and respect the views of others regardless of how passionately we feel about our own position.

It is my personal view that the current Government of Belize has consistently displayed a lack of competence in managing Belize/Guatemala relations and has not carried out an effective, balanced and organized ICJ education campaign. Unless there is some dramatic shift in public opinion over these next 10 weeks, this incompetence and disorganization will lead us to a decisive NO vote on April 10th.  Regrettably, I see no such shift on the horizon.

As a lawyer and former Attorney general of Belize, I share the view that Belize has a very strong case to take to the ICJ. Unfortunately, this view is rendered meaningless in the current environment of mistrust and chaos surrounding the education campaign.

If we are truly committed to the national interest, as all parties say they are, then it is time for the government to pause, take stock of where we are and appreciate that their desired result will not be achieved on April 10th. The ICJ Referendum should be postponed to a future date and held only after Belize has secured a proper and effective Sarstoon Protocol; and only after the required and relevant amendments have been made to the Referendum Act, the Maritime Areas Act, and the Representation of the People Act; and only after all the obstacles to a free and fair Voters List have been addressed in a serious bi-partisan manner.

Personally, I would have preferred for the former Foreign Ministers to secure a commitment from the Prime Minister to address these issues in a meaningful, serious and truly bi-partisan manner before signing off on a joint declaration in support of a YES vote.

Until and unless these issues are addressed in a serious, meaningful, bi-partisan way, I cannot in good conscience support a YES vote.

We are all well served by remembering that the Belizean people will have the final say and we will all have to respect that decision.

 

 

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