Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington has fallen under repeated criticism as it relates to the Belize/Guatemala dispute. Other groups such as the Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action, COLA, have been very verbal about their discontent to put it lightly on Elrington’s handling of the negotiations with Guatemala. And while many have called for his removal from that position, which has been ignored by UDP leader Dean Barrow, the PUP say it is not his personality that’s regrettable.
Lisa Showman – Former Minister Foreign Affairs
“No the problem is not the personality if Sedi Elrington, the problem is the management of this UDP administration of a strategy and policy that has been faint staking crafted and carried out, there was as you know a bi partisan commission which was dealing with matters and what we saw that after the Guatemalans actually dropped their promised to proceed to referendum from there we saw a series of steps that was taken which did not lead to better relations and which in fact as the past year and a half have shown have embolden the Guatemalans to increasingly act aggressively toward Belizeans civilians and even Belizean military, I have been in the bi-partisan commission and before me Eamon Courtney and we can tell you that the briefs in the past four years from the national security council has been nonexistent, it came as much as a shock to me as it did to the Belizean public to be told that weekly the BDF are being harassed by Guatemalan military forces on the Sarstoon that they are been threatened to be shot at and I think that when you start to add the trajectory you see where the management of this matter has fallen so far short that we are where we are and in the face of all of that the Foreign Minister goes to the biggest world stage and however for us to be able to have any confidence to the Belizean people in the process and I think it is time to go back to Belizeans so that organically we can explain what has been done so far, where it took a turn for a wrong and where we think are possibilities for it to go and have Belizeans give their input as to what it is they want to see, politicians and state persons have to be able to listen to people as to what they want, this isn’t a decision of one or two a few intelligence.”
Eamon Courtney added that, in other words, the PUP is the most qualified to lead Belize into the negotiations as it has developed and matured its position which continues to be refined.
“I think it is important that we appreciate that the People’s United Party has the primary expertise and experience in managing this issue and when the party announces position it comes as a result of sober and mature reflection we do not make these positions public lightly or in a cavalier fashion we did say as a part of the national effort in 2008 that the ICJ was the only option left because we had negotiated, we had gone through the mediation, we had gone through confidence building and everything had failed the secretary general of the OAS advised both countries that it is time to end that and to go to the ICJ if the people in our country would approve it, now the People’s United Party has always said and continues to believe that we cannot and should not go to the ICJ unless and until Guatemala truthfully and in good faith understands and accepts that if they go to the ICJ and we win that they will implement the decision of the ICJ, why do I say that? There is no point going to the ICJ winning the case and having our borders declared and then Guatemala say we will not join you in implementing, in clearing the border in recognizing the matters in the Sarstoon and in the maritime areas; we repeat from 2011 the People’s United Party came publicly and said that the government had abandoned the chiquibull for the illegal incursion of the Guatemala, the government of the UDP had abandoned the port of Honduras to unlawful fishing by Honduran and Guatemalan fishermen, there has been no response to the rape and plunder of the chiquibul or to the port of Honduras by Guatemalans with the blessing of the Guatemalan government we say that unless the facts on the ground a such that Guatemala demonstrate good faith not after the ICJ but before the ICJ we do not recommend to the people of Belize that we adopt that course and we have seen consistently the refusal of the United Democratic Government to fund friends for conservation, to fund TIDE, to fund SATIM and others to try their best to go out there and preserve our patrimony and our natural resources, the pint of the matter is this, under the incompetence of the United Democratic Government, under the very poor management of the United Democratic government we have lost on the ground and we have lost on the diplomatic stage, the decision by the United Democratic Party government to change the special agreement to give Guatemala the advantage to choose when Guatemala wants to go to a referendum in Guatemala is a serious tactical blunder.”
And he said, one key factor to consider is that Guatemala has not been a very good neighbor to Belize and hence cannot be trusted.
“The Belizean people will be consulted and decide what is the best way forward for Belize on this issue. Secondly, and most importantly, do not lose sight of what our objective is, our objective is to live in peace and harmony in our 8,867 square miles and sea and the ICJ cannot give s that peace and harmony, they can only resolve where the borders are and we must say that Guatemala must start behaving itself like a good neighbor and he doesn’t do that then we have to respond appropriately on each occasion stead fastly and putting forward the Belizean interest first. We are here condemning in no uncertain terms the incompetence of Wilfred Elrington and the silence of Dean Barrow on this issue make no mistake about it Dean Barrow is just as responsible for this issue as is Wilfred Elginton.”
Party Leader Francis Fonseca added that this should be considered by Belizeans when going to the polls on November 4th.
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