Last Friday, the Commander of the Belize Defense Force, Brigadier General David Jones discouraged the territorial volunteers from going through with their plans to travel the Sarstoon Island in southern Belize. While Jones cited several reasons for his advice, the trip remains in place and according to Wil Maheia of the Belize Territorial Volunteers the organization has a purpose and the upcoming trip to the Sarstoon is crucial.
“This is something that we have been doing for many years. The whole idea of the Belize Territorial Volunteers is to highlight what is going on at our borders and we urge the government whether it’s this government or any government that is in power to let us maintain and keep our border lines clean and clear. Our country is so rich in natural resources whether it’s in the marine or terrestrial and without proper management of the border line our resources get raped, we get exploited, Belize is losing out so going to the Sarstoon Island the southernmost island inside Belize’s territory is just bringing awareness and just letting people know what we have in this country and it’s a part of Belize there is no disputing that, 1859 treaty clearly states that, the Guatemalan presidents have recognized it in 1996 like Orlando had mentioned the had actually dropped the claim for Belize, all the member states of the UN have recognized Belize, all the maps that are drawn internationally shows the Sarstoon Island clearly as being a part of Belize. So the whole idea, this trip came about we were are standing up for the military, we are standing up for the Coast Guard, we are standing up for Belize. When our coast guards were basically harassed at the Sarstoon Island we need to let the world know that yes we have a border line and we need the Guatemalan Military and the Guatemalan people know that the Sarstoon Island belongs to Belize and that is basically what we are going to be doing, show solidarity with Belize, with the military, with the coast guard.”
One of the key questions we asked Commander Jones last Friday was whether the volunteers had requested the accompaniment of the Belize Defense Force. Jones told Love News that up to Friday, they had received no such request. But according to Maheia and Orlando de la Fuente of the Northern Territorial volunteers, they did send a letter to the Ministry of National Security.
ORLANDO DE LA FUENTE
” We wrote a letter to the minister of national security and it was copied to the minister of foreign affairs in that letter we stated what our mission was, what we hope to accomplish and we also stated that it is our right in our freedom of movement in the constitution and we requested the protection of the security forces in the event of detention or harassment by the Guatemalans but we have not received a response as yet. Whether they respond or not the expedition will go on. We are leaving on Sunday.”
Love News asked Maheia and de la Fuente to weigh in on the advice from the BDF Commander to not venture in the area.
“That is exactly what Guatemala wants because you should never fear venturing into any part of your own country. It should not be discouraged, it should be encouraged. The reason why we have incursions along the western border with Guatemala is because we are not there we don’t have villages, we don’t encourage farming and we have a big reserve there but basically it is for the benefits of Guatemalans who come in and pillage the wood, the wildlife, they plant illegal crops and so at some point Belize has to rethink how we manage that border because it does not benefit Belize. Maybe at some point we should open it up to sustainable logging or something but we need to settlements we need to man it with police stations and so on.”
ORLANDO DE LA FUENTE
“This weekend you would hope that every fisherman from Sarteneja right down to Baranco would be joining us on this to Sarstoon Island because we are highlighting the exploitation of our seas, of our fisheries. There is so much illegal fishing that is taking place there. The tour guides will benefit from us highlighting this and reducing the illegal fishing because then they will make their money. There will be more wildlife in the area, more manatees so we hope that the tour guides and all the Belizeans would continue to come and support us and be there. People could donate their boats, they could come out this weekend and say that they believe in what we are doing, we are highlighting the exploitation of our resources. By doing this we will reduce the incursions that is taking place and Belizeans should be more patriotic. When September comes around it seems to be when we are most patriotic. This Sunday is a time to show your support, to show your patriotism, if you have a boat come on and donate it. We have people coming from Corozal that have committed to coming on this trip. The boats right now they are filled but if you have your boat we are sure that we could put bodies on those seats in those boats so this Sunday again you mentioned earlier if we have heard from the authorities. We have never heard from them we have written to them numerous times and we have never gotten a response but does that mean that we will neglect our country and neglect our patriotic duties, no because we are Belizeans, we are 100% Belizeans and we are showing love for this country and we do not want to lose a blade of grass or a grain of sand to Guatemala and by doing this we hope that Belizeans will see what we are doing and stand up for Belize. More Belizeans need to stand up for their country.”
As we mentioned, the trip to the Sarstoon Island for Sunday, August 16 remains on schedule and with that confirmation, de la Fuente explained the itinerary for this Sunday.
ORLANDO DE LA FUENTE
“The staging area will be Baranco village, home of Any Palacio. It’s about an hour away from PG. Our bus from Orange Walk is leaving at midnight and we hope to be in PG by 6am, have some breakfast and we have a few people who we will pick up along the way from Carmelita Village, Crooked Tree and Belmopan. We hope to be in Punta Gorda by 6am, we hope to be at the staging area by 9am. We want to depart Baranco at 9am and once we are at the island which will and I are going to visit and arrange the logistics but once at the island we will raise the national flag we will sing the national anthem and we will have a key note speaker. We will also read out the 1859 boundary convention between her majesty and the Republic of Guatemala relative to the borders of British Honduras. We have a small list of activities right there but the important thing is for Belizeans to just join together and let’s take stand. Let’s show that contrary to what the commander of the Belize Defense Force said that we should not fear visiting any part of our country”
The territorial volunteers have been making trips to the border areas for just over five years now.