Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2019. 11:22 am CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By Lisa Shoman: Last year, on April 19, 2018, I wrote :
“I say NO to the holding any referendum on going to the ICJ in Belize until at a minimum:
1). There is a proper Sarstoon Protocol in place;
2). Guatemala acts like a good neighbor and equally respectful partner in every process, whether bilateral, multilateral or the claim;
3) There is full re-registration of the electoral rolls in Belize;
4) there is a full and proper education campaign which gives equal opportunity to both Yes and No proponents run by persons of the highest integrity;
5) There is a united and NON-PARTISAN approach to any process having to do with the unfounded Guatemalan Claim;
6) There is the repeal of that section of the Maritime Areas which limits our claim to a 3-mile limit for territorial seas in the south; and
7) Until we HAVE a Foreign Minister and GOB that understands and insists that Belize HAS internationally recognized borders even if Guatemala does not recognize those borders.”
Note that I have NEVER said NO TO THE ICJ.
I have been a staunch and consistent supporter of the process of going to the ICJ for resolution since 2007 – for more than a decade.
What I wrote about in 2018 was the holding of any REFERENDUM.
Please note further, that this was published only days before the announcement by Prime Minister Barrow on April 30, 2018 that the Referendum Date would be April 10, 2019.
And so, after that date was announced, I was obliged to re-evaluate my criteria because the Referendum date was, in fact set in spite of my reservations, which I continued to hold for months.
Why did I write this at all, and why did I hold reservations?
My concern was proper. My concern was that we needed ensure that the moral high ground that we occupy and display to the world – was as flood-proof as we could possibly make it.
My concern was that we could not and must not be coerced into any plebiscite in which there was not mutual respect from our partner. Such respect signals that there will be actual respect for any potential Court ruling by Guatemala.
And my biggest worry in April 2018 was that a sure NO vote then would do much more damage than waiting to have a referendum under the right conditions: with educated Belizean voters, a strong and united Government and Opposition and a respectful neighbor and partner.
So what changed? Or did I just “flip flop”??
First off, an actual Referendum date was announced, making my April 19, 2018 opinion on the timing of holding a Referendum, pretty moot.
Secondly, slowly but surely, my conditions began to be addressed. And it is a fool indeed who cannot change her opinion if conditions change.
There was a full (and ongoing) re-registration of the electoral rolls in Belize. Could we do more? Yes. Absolutely, and even the Prime Minister has conceded this. And if you registered by April 10th, you can vote in the upcoming Referendum on May 8, 2019.
Furthermore, there is an avowed assurance by the Government, spoken into the record of the Hansard, that there will be presented in the National Assembly, a Bill to repeal of that section of the Maritime Areas which limits our claim to a 3-mile limit for territorial seas in the south – and that the timing of that will be before any submission is made to the ICJ by Belize.
There is and has been more than 4 solid months of a full and proper education campaign which has given an equal opportunity to both Yes and No proponents run by persons of the highest integrity – and all non-partisan media houses in Belize, several business houses, organizations and institutions have cooperated in providing such a platform at local, district and national.
I have absolutely enjoyed watching – and participating – in the ongoing debates, the talk shows on local media and the cut and thrust of social media pontification.
And if YOU think more is needed by way of education, then YOU have a duty to get out there, and provide whatever education/information you can get your hands on. The Referendum Unit has an obligation to help you. Contact them. They WILL help.
I am satisfied that we have we do have a Foreign Minister and GOB that understands and insists that Belize has internationally recognized borders even if Guatemala does not recognize those borders – and I appreciate that the Foreign Minister in particular, does understand the effect that his statements have in Belize
I am satisfied that the approach by the GOB at this stage, is a non-partisan approach to any process having to do with the unfounded Guatemalan Claim – and that both the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister recognize that this must be so.
I do think that the political will to do so in a united manner is not far off – and while this may be overly optimistic, I’m a Belizer.
I still want a proper Sarstoon Protocol in place, but I am vastly comforted by the recent Legal Opinion of Judge Stephen Schwbel that this is something that can best be achieved by submitting the Claim to the ICJ and asking for precautionary interim measures. Now there’s an INJUNCTION that I can agree with.
And I still want a Guatemala acts like a good neighbor and equally respectful partner in every process, whether bilateral, multilateral or the claim.
But I am no longer willing to put the resolution of the unfounded Guatemalan claim on hold until these last 2 conditions on my list are fully achieved. Belize cannot allow Guatemala to hold any defacto veto over resolution of this wretched claim.
When we went to Independence, George Cadle Price, Father of our Nation held steadfast, despite detractors, naysayers and political cassandras and chicken littles of every possible persuasion. He never wavered.
And we went to Independence on September 21, 1981 with no formal defence guarantee from the UK.
They told GCP that he was making a huge and deadly mistake, and frightened men like Alejandro Vernon even begged the UN not to support our Independence. Price never wavered. He simply refused to be held hostage by the lack of that guarantee. So should we.
I have no qualms or fears moving forward to a referendum save the need for united political will, which must come for all our sakes. We must all demand it, but not at a price that imperils our nation.
Basta ya! Time to get the Guatemalan boots off our national neck. Time to solve this.
Belize deserves no less.
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