Last Friday saw the release from the People’s Untied Party condemning and criticizing the presentation made at the UN’s General Assembly by Foreign Affairs Minister, Wilfred Elrington. It is a case where Minister Elrington, for whatever reason, gave the impression in his speech that going to the International Court of Justice was a done deal whilst omitting the fact that the matter is to be taken to referenda in both Belize and Guatemala. With elections just a few weeks away, it is anticipated that every word and action from either party will be dissected and condemned. And that is what happened today as the Opposition continued their campaign via a press conference this morning at their headquarters on Queen Street in Belize City. The Leader of the Opposition, Francis Fonseca was there and spoke briefly on what Friday’s release had already indicated.
Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition:” On Friday October 2nd 2015 Foreign Minister Elrington spoke at the United Nations as the representative of our nation in his speech he said and I quote “That Belize had signed a protocol to the special agreement between Belize and Guatemala to submit Guatemala’s territorial insular and maritime claim to our country to the International Court of Justice. We expect that this will facilitate and speed up the process of finally and definitively put an end to the unfounded claims that have plagued us and our region for far too long.” end of quote. The People’s United Party rejects Minister Elrington’s stating on the world stage as our representative that the protocol he signed with Guatemala will facilitate and speed up the process of going to the ICJ.”
Fonseca was flanked by four former Foreign Affairs Minister under the PUP, namely, Eamon Courtenay, Lisa Shoman, Godfrey Smith and Said Musa. According to Shoman, Elrington’s mention of the Belize/Guatemala issue was not forceful enough and not given sufficient importance in a forum of international leaders.
Lisa Shoman: “This is a matter that affects the citizens of both countries and that in fact is more important than any idea of being polite at the UN. As I said go and look at David Granger’s speech it is very pointed in what it does say and that is the kind of speech we would have wanted. We know that climate change is critical and important but right now Guatemala and the unfounded claim is a bigger existential threat than is climate change right now. We arguing our work on climate change, the Climate Change Center of the Caribbean is here, we did not need only one minute and nine seconds of addressing Belize and eighteen minutes of climate change. I think what Belizeans are looking for is some acknowledgment from this government which they have not been able to give that they take this matter in a fundamental and serious manner and that they are acting with the best interest of Belizeans at heart. The truth is that every time there is transition in Guatemala and elections in Belize normally things are put un pause because we know that there has to be a fresh political mandate. What Sedi Elrington did was in fact act as there will be no change in political mandate and has arrogated onto himself the right to decide for Belizeans what will happen and that is completely wrong.”
With all that has been said, particularly by Foreign Minister Elrington, the People’s United Party is now calling for clarification from the Barrow administration.
Francis Fonseca, Leader of the Opposition: “The People’s United Party therefore on behalf of the Belizean people demand an immediate and public clarification of the record by the Prime Minister of the statements made by his Foreign Minister Elrington at the United Nations on Friday. The People’s United Party demands that the UDP disclose to all Belizeans the protocol to the special agreement between Belize and Guatemala and provide citizens, the citizens of Belize with the OAS report on the Sarstoon, Belize’s Protest note to Guatemala and Guatemala’s reply to that note. Belizeans demand that the forward operating base be built on Sarstoon Island and that we immediately begin to assert all rights of sovereignty over Belizean waters in the Sarstoon in a peaceful but unequivocal manner. We must not abandon the Sarstoon as has been done by this UDP government.”
As for the protocol that Elrington had referred to, we did check the document and found that there has been no agreement signed onto that confirms Belize going to the international Court of Justice. As we have been told previously, the answer on whether or not we go to the ICJ will come following a referendum for the country’s electorate.