Earlier this week, a delegation led by Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington met with his Guatemalan counterpart in Istanbul, Turkey. Earlier this week Cabinet announced the statutory instrument limiting movement on the Sarstoon River would be revoked since the talks proved successful. Yesterday Prime Minister Barrow was asked about the meeting.
“There’s an agreement now that we will negotiate a formal protocol for the Sarstoon and in the meantime clearly Belizeans can feel free to go to the Sarstoon that is why we have revoked the statutory instrument that was in place.”
“Is there any timeline for that?”
“For how soon the formal protocol to be fleshed out? No as quickly as can possibly be done but there is no fixed timeline.”
Senator Eamon Courtenay was a part of the meetings as the representative for the Opposition, People’s United Party. Courtenay said it is important to see how things play out on the ground following the conclusion of the meetings.
“It’s important for us to see what happens. Saying something in a diplomatic meeting is one thing, the proof of the pudding is in the eating so we need to see what happens beginning now when we exercise our rights to use the Sarstoon when our citizens and when the military exercise their right. We expect based on the understanding at the meeting that they will be entitled to do so as we have always done. Now as you say the important thing is whether or not the Guatemalan Forces in the Sarstoon are going to respect that. We are hopeful that they will, we insisted that the information be communicated not only to the top of their military but to the soldiers and naval forces in the area so there should be no defense that the message didn’t reach the people in the field and that type of thing. We expect full compliance and respect for our territorial rights.”
As has been reported, the PUP is challenging the new law that limited movement on the Sarstoon. Senator Courtenay was asked if the suit would be withdrawn given the fact that the law has been repealed.
“It’s not moot and it’s not pointless because we expect the challenge to continue. You see what you have there in our view is an unlawful exercise of state power. As I said before it is bad policy and it is bad in law. The Public Safety Act has a specific criteria for the Governor General to exercise that power to restrain people from moving in the Sarstoon or anywhere else. We believe that the facts were not there for him to do it and therefore he acted unlawfully and we have to set a precedence. The court has to speak to the circumstances in which that kind of power can be exercised in the future so it’s a very important case, it violated our constitutional rights and the constitutional rights of many Belizeans who attempted to go there and we ask the court to still pronounce on it for the future.”
As it relates to the ongoing talks with Guatemala, Senator Courtenay said Ambassadors Alexis Rosado and Ambassador Manuel Roldan will meet shortly to set the time table for how the discussions will proceed.