Briceno Calls Recent Sarstoon Regulation, A Draconian Measure

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Updated: April 29, 2016

A few weeks ago we heard of a bi-partisan approach being taken by both the Barrow administration and the main Opposition, People’s United Party.  Since then the opposition, represented by Ambassador Assad Shoman was working hand in hand with the country’s Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington and had even agreed that one cannot and should not make a statement to the media without the other present.  In recent days, it seems things have shifted somewhat as while the Government of Belize has sought the Governor General’s signature on the Statutory Instrument that prohibits traffic in the Sarstoon, the People’s United Party has viewed it as being appalling.  The Briceno led party issued a release just after three o’clock this afternoon where it indicates that there was a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in which Briceno noted his disagreement in what they have called, ‘a draconian measure’.  The release goes on to read, in part, “The PUP views this as a retrograde and highly prejudicial step for the following reasons: (1) In the face of Guatemala’s assertion of sovereignty over the entire Sarstoon River, this regulation with the specific objective of preventing Belizeans from entering Belize’s portion of it, may be viewed in law as acquiescence by Belize to Guatemala’s assertion of sovereignty over the enter Sarstoon.  (2) In the face of growing Guatemalan belligerence and aggression, the regulation only serves to embolden Guatemala and harden its resolve to assert sovereignty over the entire Sarstoon.  (3) It is an act of cowardice by the Government to threaten to arrest and fine patriotic Belizeans who wish to exercise their constitutional right to move freely and peacefully in Belizean waters when Guatemalans illegally pour over our Western border every day committing a range of illegalities, pillaging our resources and damaging our environment.  (4)  The Government of Belize has wholly failed to take into consideration that the livelihood of a large number of Belizeans depend on the ability to freely navigate our portion of the Sarstoon River without having to obtain prior permission.  (5)  Since the BTV has issued a declaration of peace and prepared a Code of Conduct for participants to sign it, is inaccurate to say that there could be any threat to public safety in Belize by members of the BTV.  The only threat to public safety will come from Guatemala.  The legality and constitutionality of the regulation is highly suspect.  The PUP calls upon the Government of Belize to declare whether the regulation will be equally and impartially enforced against Guatemalans who enter into Belize’s portion of the Sarstoon River and immediately rescind the unpatriotic regulation.