Posted: Monday, January 21, 2019. 8:37 am CST.
This article was written by Richard Harrison, Belizean investor in production and services businesses in Belize. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration degree from Lancaster University.
By Richard Harrison: One of the principal reasons given by Assad Shoman for why Belize should vote yes to take the disputed Guatemalan claim over Belize to the ICJ…is that “all negotiations were tried and failed”.
This politician/historian/lawyer, of Palestinian decent, who has been in semi-retirement in Cuba for over 20 years…is now at the center of Belize’s ICJ debate…his book “A Difinitive History of Belize” is being sold as the bible for why Belize should vote “yes to ICJ”….and he himself has been contracted to go on road shows actively selling the “yes to ICJ” campaign across Belize.
This learned scholar knows that going to court is always the option of last resort in the settlement of any dispute….thus it was vital to the “yes to ICJ” argument that all negotiations be declared tried and failed…so as to justify choosing the last resort option of going to court…and even calling it “Belize’s last and best option…” for settlement of the dispute.
If in fact all negotiations were not tried…and thus could not have failed…then there would be no justification for going to court at the ICJ…worse in the urgency with which this ICJ agenda is being pushed.
So….were all negotiations tried and failed?
Let us look at what negotiations were tried first:
1965-68 Webster Proposals
1978-81 Heads of Agreement
1981 Belize gains Independence
1990 Points of Concurrence Roatan
1990 Draft General Treaty of Settlement of Land and Maritime Boundaries of Related Matters between Belize and Guatemala
1991 Belize becomes member of OAS
1991 Guatemala recognizes Belize independence
1991 Guatemala and Belize establish diplomatic relations
1992 Draft general treaty on land/maritime boundaries
1992 Said Musa clarifies Maritime Areas Act
1994 Guatemala reopens claim
2000 Guatemala and Belize agree to an OAS mediated process for negotiations.
2000 Confidence Building Measures
2000 Maritime Areas Act revised
2001 Ramphal/Reichler Facilitation
2003 Guatemala rejects Ramphal/Reichler
2005 Confidence Building Measures
2007 Guatemala accepts OAS recommendation to go to ICJ
2008 Belize accepts OAS recommendation to go to ICJ
2008 Special Agreement signed
2013 Guatemala suspends referendum
2014 Guatemalan killed in adjacency zone
2014 Belize-Guatemala Joint Commission formed
2014 Signing of 13 agreements
2015 Protocol amended Special Agreement
After Heads of Agreement failed and Independence was granted to Belize under the Commonwealth; on September 21, 1981; Guatemala broke off relations.
Until 1990 talks were reopened so that official diplomatic relations were started in 1991….and which went sour by 1994….until 2000 talks warmed up again under the OAS…which has featured Ramphal/Reichler Facilitation Process, Maritime Areas Act and Confidence Building Measures that lead to 2007 agreement to go to ICJ.
Hence, two things can be said about the negotiations:
(1) they were scanty, uninspired, uncreative, and spread thin over at most 10 years out of our 37 years of Independence
(2) they were very shallow-based in border area and did not touch the personal lives of vast majority of Guatemalans and Belizeans, who mostly live far from the border, but rather pandered to the military-elite government exclusively.
The scant little that has been done resulted in 74% of Guatemalans not participating in their referendum in April 2018…in other words, they are not interested in the claim.
Thus, ALL negotiations were not tried and failed…and this lie will be proven very soon when Belizeans vote in vast majority “No to ICJ”…which will cause nothing more than to send all parties back to the negotiating table.
Fresh negotiations must be deeper and broader…with a lot more cooperation, coordination, cohesion, collaboration and even collusion…to positively affect more lives on both sides…to grow respect and trust between the peoples and governments of Belize and Guatemala….so that the amount of people not interested in the claim will grow to over 90% in no time…and governments will have to respect the will of the people.
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