Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington addressed the 73rd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on Saturday. He spoke about various issues social issues and developments in Belize but he opened his speech speaking about Independence and the most significant threat to the country’s territorial integrity, Guatemala’s unfounded claim.
Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: “Yet 37 years later, the Guatemalan claim remains unresolved. Indeed, efforts to have the Guatemalan claim resolved at the International Court of Justice eluded the British government for upward of eighty years. Thankfully however, Belizeans will soon decide whether the opportunity to bring to a definitive settlement, this claim, which has long sown fear in the hearts of all Belizeans and which have long hamstrung our nation’s development potential, will in fact be seized. The significance of the April 15th, 2017 Guatemalan referendum, which ratified the decision of their Government in 2008 to cause the claim to my country to be adjudicated upon by the I.C.J., should not be lost. For in carrying out the referendum, Guatemala gave effect to their obligation under the Special Agreement that both our countries have signed in good faith. At the same time, there is still one pending issue for us to agree upon. In continuing that spirit of good faith, we urge our neighbor Guatemala to agree on a procedure or protocol for confidence building measures on the Sarstoon River, our southern boundary with Guatemala, to facilitate the management of incidents of the kind that gave rise to heightened tensions between our two countries in 2015 and 2016. Madam President, Belizeans are on the cusp of a truly rare and felicitous moment in our nation’s history. Our voting public, in the finest democratic fashion, is now seized of a once in a lifetime opportunity, to determine the fate of our country. The Government of Belize has appointed April 10th, 2019 as the date for the national referendum. On that day all registered voters will be entitled to cast their ballots signaling either their consent or rejection to having the Guatemalan claim resolved once and for all by the I.C.J. In preparation for that first historic plebiscite, our government has embarked upon a national, a nationwide public awareness campaign to ensure that all Belizeans are fully informed about the nature of the claim and why it should be referred to the I.C.J. for resolution.”