The People’s United Party came out swinging at the Government of Belize and in particular, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In its release the PUP says quote “This was an egregious violation of Belizean sovereignty and a breach of international law”, end of quote. The People’s United Party categorically rejects the specious claim by Guatemalan Foreign Minister and strongly condemns the provocative and illegal act by the Guatemalan Navy. The PUP is also calling on the Government of Belize to immediately deliver a strongly worded Diplomatic note to Guatemala rejecting the spurious claim by Foreign Minister Morales, and to recall our Belizean Ambassador to Guatemala for urgent consultations. Former PUP Foreign Affairs Minister, Eamon Courtenay, spoke to the media.
“The People’s United Party looks on that with great concern. Firstly it seems to us based on what we’ve been made to understand that Guatemalan Naval vessels were in Belizean territorial waters which constitutes a grave violation of our national sovereignty. Secondly for Belizeans not to be allowed to go into the Sarstoon River on our side of the border is again a direct attack on our territorial integrity and a violation of international law and so we in the very strongest terms condemn the actions by the Guatemalan Military, the Guatemalan Navy and we call on the government to take appropriate action.”
Reporter: What course of action should the government and the people of Belize take to address what has transpired.
“Well I think in the first step is for the government to reassert in very clear terms the territorial integrity and sovereignty. I think it needs to be made clear to Guatemala and the international community that what Guatemala has done and what they did is a violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty. It seems to us that, and as we said in our press release, we have called on our ambassador to be recalled from Guatemalan for consultations which is a clear signal to Guatemalans that we find this to be a very grave infraction. We also believe that it’s important that a meeting be held at the Ministerial level at the OAS in order to reduce tensions. Obviously the objective would be to have confidence building measures that would be applicable to the Sarstoon in order to a avoid any incidence like this in the future but that meeting will have to be premised on the respect of Guatemala for Belize’s borders and there should be absolutely no mistake about that.”
Courtenay shared what are some of the international laws that Guatemalan broke when it sent its naval vessels into Belizean waters.
“Well first of all no military vessel is allowed to come into our territorial waters and our waters at all without our permission and as far as I understand it the Guatemalan military and as far as I understand it the Guatemalan Military and Navy had no such permission so that is one violation. Secondly it seems to us that for a foreign military force to stop a Belizean in Belizean territorial waters from going into any part of Belize is a violation of our sovereignty. That is a clear violation of the international law. The Guatemalan Navy has no legal authority to do anything within Belizean territorial waters. These are very serious violations of international law and we can’t countenance it, we should not accept it and we should not tolerate it. We are urging the government to take very strong action so that the Guatemalans understand it. It seem to me that Guatemala by choice has embarked on a course where an incident is going to take place. We believe that that incident or those incidents should be avoided but at the same time we believe that the government of Belize should be strong and steadfast and we should get out friends to communicate very directly to Guatemala that they are in the wrong and we are in the right.”
The PUP wants an urgent ministerial meeting to be held between Belize and Guatemala at the Organization of American States to adopt measures that reduce tensions whilst fully respecting Belize’s territorial integrity. But how can the OAS do so if their office along the adjacency zone is closing down. We understand that their operations in Belize are costly and now the funding is quickly running out. Courtenay called out on the Guatemalan Government
“We in the People’s United Party call on Guatemala to support the efforts to keep the Organization of American States in the adjacency zone. It has served a very useful purpose, it has reduced tensions and it has been able to verify on each occasion that the Belize Defense Force and our security forces were in the right and that Guatemala was in the wrong. That office is in peril of being closed because of lack of funds and we say in no uncertain terms that it is in the interest of Belize that it be maintained and we call on Guatemala to do the responsible thing to join the effort to raise the funds for that office to remain there and in fact we are advocating that confidence building measures need to be in place in the Sarstoon in order to avoid what is clearly designed by Guatemala some sort of provocation that is going to lead to the loss of life and property. It is clear that Guatemala has decided to behave contrary to international law, to behave like a rogue nation and we have to carry that message to the international community.
The PUP wants the Government to recall Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala and that is something that will not happen says Foreign Affairs Minister, Wilfred Elrington.
“The people that you listen to are not necessarily the most truthful. Let me explain to you why. The initial confidence building measures were entered into because in about 2000 seven of our security officers were taken out of Belizean territory by Guatemalan Military, that has not happened under our watch not a single one has been taken. Also too up to between 1995 and 2000 that Guatemalans had a policy to encourage their people to come and settle in Belize, that has not happened under our watch. They have been finding work for their people in Guatemala. They used to come in and routinely want to cut down our xate, kill our animals and our birds, that has been reduced considerably. So the truth is not what these people are telling you.
Reporter: The former Foreign Minister is saying that.
Wilfred Elrington: That is what I’m saying that is not the truth because the record is clear. The reason why we as a matter of fact it was under one of those same former foreign minister that we started using the expression boundary because up to 2000 we used the word boundary. It was those people that agreed to have a variation of the use of the word boundary because the Guatemalan said if we use that word that they would not sit and negotiate and they wanted to negotiate with the Guatemalans, that was not the position of the British. The British never wanted to negotiate anything with the Guatemalans. We certainly are not negotiating anything with the Guatemalans, it was those foreign ministers that decided use the expression adjacency line because of the difficulty that they had with Belize and Guatemala in those days that is the truth.
Reporter: The People’s United Party is calling for the recall of Ambassador Alexis Rosado your position is?
Wilfred Elrington: I mean it has to be the most ridiculous call, why will you bring him back? How are you going to solve the problem with them unless you talk to them. Because you have a dispute over territory you don’t stop talking to them, you don’t hold malice that is the kind of immature behavior. Mature people and mature governments use the official medium to deal with these things. What is the official medium? The international court of justice.”