Friday, December 12, 2008


Growing up in the Belizean society, whether in the peaceful decade of the 60s or the technologically dependent one that is the post-millennium, the mere mention of the word "Guatemala" may evoke explicit sentiments. However, this is not because we have suffered from a severe case of xenophobia, but rather, it is because it spurs a sense of nationalism due to their century-old claim over our territory. This, I believe, is understandable. What I cannot understand is the sudden opposition against settling this claim in a controlled, objective legal setting. My confusion is compounded by the fact that just last year we had independent Guatemalan communities living in our territory; this event of course incited massive outrage and eventually compelled our government to take action. We are at a critical juncture where this territorial claim can be once and for all, solved. Now I admit, that victory at the ICJ does not mean exactly that. Guatemala can just as easily refuse to acknowledge defeat. However, at last, we would be able to wave a document to the world - a world that recognizes the legitimacy of the ICJ - and say that we have done our part to settle this dispute, regardless of whether Guatemala recognizes it or not. At the end of the day, only they will look foolish.

The other tangent of opposition rests on our probablity to lose the case. This of course is not impossible. Would it mean that we would have to relinquish our sovereignty to the quetzal? I doubt it. I think it is our duty to support our diplomats in their effort to finally solve our territorial qundary. Stoning eggs and accusations of betrayal are unwarranted, unjustified and displays Belize at its worst. I was appalled when Paul Morgan - leader of the VIP party - said that he opposes it because the government failed to educate the people about the various processes. As he should know, the real educational initiative is launched after the signing of the compromis, after which, the people will have their say through a referendum. But it is irresponsible to beleaguer this effort before the education process has even begun.

I attended a conference last week where an American from Charlotte, North Carolina discussed his intention to invest in real estate in Belize. He said, "I am in love with Belize. I go there every year with my family. The people there are peaceful, they speak English, and they have no history of overthrowing the government. The only negative issue affecting the country is its dispute with Guatemala." He announced this to a pool of nodding investors, who travelled from all parts of the world. Clearly, these investors were well aware of our dispute. Now, tell me, would there be any hesitation in their minds about a "dispute" if we secured a victory from the ICJ? I think not.

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