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Rortary Club Belize City joins ICJ referendum campaign

The Rotary Club of Belize City joined the education campaign on taking the Belize Guatemala dispute to the International Court of Justice. It hosted a crossfire discussion on Wednesday at the Bliss Center for the Performing Arts. Here is a look at some of the highlights of the evening.

Dalia Ical: “The Rotary ICJ Crossfire saw the participation of six panelists, three supporting the Yes vote and three supporting the No vote on taking the Belize Guatemala dispute to the ICJ for resolution.”

Katherine Meighan: “It’s very important for the Rotary Club because it is very important for Belize. This topic can and will for the future no matter what happens on April 10th perhaps change the course of what happens in Belize and it’s essential most importantly for us that all Belizeans are educated and informed about the facts so that they can arrive at their own opinion on whether we as Belizeans when we go vote should be voting yes or no to going to the ICJ on the Belize Guatemala claim.”

Dalila Ical: “The panelists’ opening remarks set the pace for an interactive discussion.”

Audrey Matura Attorney: “The process I find it very flawed. It comes down an issue of trust, it comes down to an issue where our government had ten years to educate our people on the issue and has miserably failed to do so. It has turned a campaign that should educational into a yes campaign which to me is an insult to our intelligence.”

Jordan Craig: “We all waited too long to prepare and quite frankly it is all our faults, governments especially right but the fact of the matter is that we have time left. I dispute the fact that we can claim to not be informed at this point when there is information out there. Because we have failed for so long to educate ourselves I urge you to take it upon yourself to use the time that is left to become as educated and informed as possible. Do not stop talking about it and don’t stop thinking about it, do not stop questioning it.”

Audrey Matura Attorney: “The government then found it appropriate at the request of Guatemala to change the threshold of how many people need to come to vote at the referendum therefore making it easier to pass a position that gets the most campaigning which is the yes vote as it is. I find that matter disingenuous so on that point I say for me a lot comes down to trust.”

Dalila Ical: “The issue of proper consultation was echoed by UB History major Christian Cansino who supports a “NO” vote.

Christian Cansino History Student: “You are telling yes, no whether we would like to go but the basis on what we are going to we did not agree to that and I think that is very important. I am not an expert in international law. I am just a history student so I have a lot of questions that are not being addressed in my opinion properly. Like I said I can’t any bodies word for it. Please show me evidence and please show me presidence.”

Lewis Wade Pastor: “One sentence and three parts: It will determine the claims, it will declare the rights and it will define your borders  definitively. You can only define borders if the borders are undefined. If your borders has already been defined why are you going to have a third party determine those borders for you.”

Dalila Ical: “Dylan Vernon, Belize’s Ambassador to Belgium rebutted saying an advisory council was established and operational from 2005 to 2008 and was consulted by negotiators during the drafting of the Special Agreement.”

Dylan Vernon Belize Ambassador to Belgium: “ It represented a wide cross section of Belize representing unions, the Bar Association, Churches and others. Thirty people sat on it and looked at that Special Agreement carefully and advised the negotiating team about it so there was consultation happening for the special agreement. Finally on the issue of any and all that, is one of the things that has been out there that has been causing some questions is the key reason that  in article two and in the question is because Guatemala has been very confused about what it is claiming. There is different claims amounts: half, the whole thing, piece and so our legal advisors advise that we include any and all in the wording of the question to make sure that once this is settled in a binding way Guatemala cannot come back again and say we missed out a piece.”

Lewis Wade Pastor: “Why is Guatemala going to court now, because it is going to court on its terms. What Guatemala has done is systematically erode the authenticity of the border in the eyes of the rest of the world.”

Melvin Hulse: “They are not going now because they erode any of our flipping border. They are going now because they are getting pressured everytime the United Nations go on. That is why because they want to be viewed as the commercial democratic country of Central America. Our border has not disappeared.”

Dalila Ical: “And there was the popular question: what if the vote is a no, what next ……………..

Dylan Vernon Belize Ambassador to Belgium: “In a sense we are back to square one. What do we do next and we begin to look at other options, negotiations. We know what has happened to those in terms of the fact that Guatemala wants something we could never give and so we will have to begin to wheel and come again and try to think about what to do next but it is unpredictable indeed as to what will happen. We will assume that there can be some discussions about confidence building measures again along the border and in the Sarstoon but at the end of the day there is not yet a plan B as to what would happen.”

Audrey Matura Attorney: “There are options. You need to go back and isn’t that what happens when Guatemala told the UK no we are not going to court. Suddenly the territory we know as British Honduras then disappeared no. They kept going, kept going and Guatemala is being strategic and if I was Guatemala that is the strategy I would go with. I would wear you down to the point that when I go I am in a stronger position and they are in a stronger position.”

Jordan Craig: “ Guatemala refuses to go to court because it wanted to go to court solely on Article 38, 2. Article 38, 2 of the ICJ statute which would allow the judges of the court to consider extra legal matters, matters of fairness, sympathy for Guatemala. Is it fair what the British pirates did to Guatemala and the Spanish? That is what Guatemala wanted to go to the ICJ on. The British refused and likewise Belize refused. This is why the special agreement is such an achievement for Belize. We got Guatemala to the table and wore them down. They didn’t wear us down, we wore them down to if we decided to go to the ICJ via referendum it would be only on article 38, 1 of the ICJ statute. Dalila Ical Love News.”

Rotary Belize City representatives say that they hope other clubs join in the educational campaign as referendum day, April 10, draws closer.