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Yes or No versus Unity or Hostility

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Posted: Monday, February 11, 2019. 1:14 pm CST.

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

By Delroy Cuthkelvin: The best moment undoubtedly for the ICJ Education Campaign so far was in early January when five former foreign ministers of different political persuasions (including current Prime Minister Dean Barrow and former Prime Minister Said Musa) sat on the same stage addressing the momentous national issue with maturity and mutual respect. The worst moment arguably came near the end of January when the two major political parties announced diametrically opposite positions, the cabinet and governing party declaring support for a “yes” vote while the parliamentary opposition and its party executive declared a “no” position.

Whose fault it was that this uniquely national issue transcending politics and personalities would so quickly be reduced to UDP versus PUP, is not for us to judge; and pointing a finger one way or the other would serve no purpose other than to further fan the flames of division. What we can say is that, regarding the Opposition’s declaration, more critical than the position itself was the tone and tenor of the statement. But, again, we will refrain from pronouncing judgement on the rationale or pretext for such a tone.

As existential as the issue might be, the national mood surrounding the ICJ referendum is perhaps more essential than the outcome of the vote itself. In other words, it might be more important that we enter and emerge from the April tenth plebiscite with national unity and mutual respect than that we secure a “yes” or “no” vote, depending on one’s individual or organizational preference.

It is also important to understand that “unity” does NOT necessarily mean “uniformity” in our position on any issue, most of all such a sacred and momentous matter. It is one thing for individuals and opposing parties to openly disagree on a position or principle; it is quite another to be hostile or bellicose towards each other in doing so.

The current Prime Minister, Right Honorable Dean Barrow, has provided exemplary leadership in this process, having struck the right chord at precisely the right moment. In the remaining two months before the referendum, he should make one last attempt at securing or restoring national unity on the Belize-Guatemala issue, this ICJ debate being the latest episode in an extended saga dating back to the origin of the settlement itself that became the sovereign nation of Belize, each chapter and every episode having tested our national resolve.

Having displayed the same level of maturity and nationalism on this particular issue, former Prime Minister Right Honorable Said Musa can also play a key role going forward in ensuring that principled differences and political disagreements do not deteriorate or descend into destructive and debilitating national discord.

There is strength in unity, and if ever there was a time Belize needed it, that time is now.

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