For months now we have been hearing the Foreign Affairs officials speak of amending the Referendum Act and we have heard of the plans to hold a referendum. The monies spent, however, on travel and accommodations for meetings between Belize and Guatemala are undoubtedly in the hundreds of thousands; yet when you look at it, there is not much Belize can do until Guatemala’s Congress ratifies the matter of a referendum in their country. In speaking with Foreign Affairs Minister, Wilfred Elrington yesterday, we asked him if there is any concern on the part of our Government with the monies being spent on this issue and the perception that Guatemala is not making a move to take the matter forward. Here is his response:
“It’s not my understanding they are not moving toward it, as a matter of fact I am told that the matter is before the congress but they have a heavy agenda and they hope to get it before too long and then they will be ratifying the amended protocol which we entered into so it is a work in progress. We ourselves will be amending our referendum act that as well is a work in progress and takes a little time to get these things done but the important thing is that we have to try to resolve the matter as quickly as possible and for those of you who have been keeping your eyes on the international situation only today the Philippines had taken China to the Arbitral Court of the United Nations over the activities of the Chinese in the South China sea the same kind of territorial issues, same kind of maritime issues that we have and I’m told the result came out favorable in favor of the Philippines. The Philippines did it unilaterally, the Chinese didn’t want to go to the court but in fact the Philippines went themselves. We ourselves need to do all that we have to do, I don’t think we need to worry too much about Guatemala in my view, it cannot be said that we are not doing all that we need to do to make sure that we bring the matter as quickly as possible to the ICJ. It is really in our national interest that this matter is squarely before the ICJ so that nobody can accuse us of doing all in our power to take it before this highest legal tribunal.”
In an interview conducted with Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, on March 20, 2016, he spoke on the issue of the referendum. Here is how that went.
“We are always repeating that in our view, in the official view of the government, that that really is the only way to solve this issue once and for all but it does take two to tango and we have not yet gone to a referendum because the Guatemalans seem to be having great difficulty in terms of their own internal politics in setting the stage for them to go to referendum. I don’t know that what has happened will in any way change things in Guatemala. For us the key is to try to come up with a way forward with respect to the Sarstoon, that is priority one that is job one. In the larger context we in Belize continue to be interested in going to referendum as soon as is practicable but I repeat I don’t see us going without the Guatemalans also being prepared to go. There has been provision now for us to be able to go separately.
Prime Minister Barrow has noted that the Referendum Act will be amended despite the opposition from some sectors.