SECURITY PERSONNEL SAY THEY WILL NOT BE A PART OF EXPEDITION TO SARSTOON ISLAND

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Updated: August 14, 2015

On Thursday Senator Lisa Shoman said you will be a part of the expedition to Sarstoon Island. As we reported, the Belize Territorial Volunteers has planned the expedition however national security personnel have advised against the undertaking. Yesterday Shoman said she wrote to the Ministry of National Security as she will be making the trip in her official capacity. Late yesterday the Government of Belize responded to Shoman by saying it views the Senator’s actions as irresponsible and stated her actions are totally political. The Government’s release once again cautioned the Belize Territorial Volunteers that the trip might be a dangerous one and said that Belizeans may be at risk of inadvertently entering into Guatemala territory. Today Commander of the Belize Defence Force, Brigadier General David Jones was asked whether BDF personnel would be a part of the excursion.

Brigadier General David Jones

We had warned before that the island in particular, they argue that it’s never been in dispute, we in Belize argue that it is ours, they argue that it is theirs so it is a source for confrontation and it doesn’t make sense to go into an area where there is going to be confrontation especially if it is an area which is in dispute between both countries. As I’ve said before, it is better for the diplomats to work it out and that is the warning that we gave and they should heed the warning. As I’ve said before, our security forces will not be on that trip because it may seem as an act of escalation of force in the area and we of course want to avoid that. I don’t know what their real agenda is but, whatever it is, it’s not helping the cause of the country and helping the cause of what the country is trying to receive in regards to getting a peaceful solution with our claim with our neighboring country. Guatemala has a claim on our country and its best for that situation to be handled diplomatically. It doesn’t make sense for any civilian organization to get involved in government matters that should be handled by diplomats.”

With the BDF out of the picture, will the coast guard be attending Sunday’s journey to Sarstoon Island? Today, Leader of the Northern Territorial Volunteers, Orlando de la Fuente, told the media that he had sent a letter to the Commander of the Belize National Coast Guard asking that the coast guard tag along for supervision purposes.

Orlando de la Fuente, Northern Territorial Volunteers

“There is always an element of danger when you’re going in a boat so I wrote a letter to the commander of the coast guard John Borland requesting that the coast guard send some assets, in that are to check on the boats to see that they are sea worthy, to check that everybody has a life jacket and just to be around in the event of any maritime accidents. I have not heard from the Coast Guard as yet. As of today we have not received a response neither have we received a response from the Ministry of National Security nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the commissioner of police regarding our expedition the Sarstoon. In a previous letter to the Minister of National Security we requested BDF escort, we have not received a response from them yet.”

Admiral John Borland, told the media that he did receive the letter but as far as he is concerned, he follows orders from the government and no order has come for them to join the Belize Territorial Volunteers.

Admiral John Borland

The government of Belize has given its position on this matter. I go with what my civilian leadership decides. As you know we are disciplined armed organization we follow orders and we go by the policies of those that we have committed to support in our duty as a member of a military force.”

Hipolito Novelo, Love News

But do you know whether or not the government had decided to send the coast guard along?”

Admiral John Borland

“The last I have heard when I saw the news last night there hasn’t been any decision to send the coast guard on any mission to support in escorting or providing cover for those people going in on that expedition. I believe that there may be a need to provide for maritime safety as we saw the last time that expedition went where they went despite a small craft warning and those vessels were overloaded. I believe that is the role that we would be able to play but it does not involve or include any form of support in the form of an escort or providing cover for the people going in to do the Sarstoon Island expedition.”

Hipolito Novelo, Love News

Would you advise against it ?”

Admiral John Borland

“As I said go along with what my government’s position is we heard the Minister speak just yesterday, we heard the general speak on it and I am not going to go against what they have said.”

And while the BDF will not go, and it seems that the coast guard will not go either, Senator Lisa Shoman will definitely make the trip. Shoman is a PUP Senator and the Government has stated that Shoman’s participating is a political ploy. De La Fuente, welcomed Shoman’s participation.

Orlando de la Fuente, Northern Territorial Volunteers

“Previously I know that she was one of the architects of the confidence building measures and it started under her uncle Assad Shoman but I’m going to get into what has happened in the past and who signed the confidence building measures. I’m happy that Senator Shoman has decided to join the expedition and we welcome her presence. I think to the expedition it lends it some more credence and I wish other political leaders would have the fortitude to join the expedition also.”

Reporter

“Do you think in a sense it forces the government to take more notice, this is a member of the national assembly who is going?”

Orlando de la Fuente, Northern Territorial Volunteers

It has to, they have to and I’ve read that she has informed the relevant authorities to embassy , the Guatemalan ambassador and the president of her senate so it does bring more weight to the expedition to have a senator like her join us.”