The People’s United Party has roundly criticized the Government of Belize in the wake of Sunday’s incident in the Sarstoon between Belize Territorial Volunteers and Guatemalan military. They say that the foreign policy of the government is feeble, which has allowed the Guatemalans to gain ground and put our territorial sovereignty at risk.
At a press conference held on Tuesday, PUP Leader Francis Fonseca sat at a head table flanked by Deputy Leader Carolyn Trench-Sandiford, Senator Lisa Shoman and retired BDF officers Lloyd Jones and Gilbert Suazo.
Fonseca expressed his outrage at what he called the clear inaction of GOB, leading up to, during and after the incident.
– “We demand that our Belize government seek a full and unequivocal apology from the Guatemalan government by way of a diplomatic note for their military’s actions, as well as a full explanation and a commitment that it will not be repeated.”
Senator Lisa Shoman was one of the members of that expedition to the Sarstoon on Sunday, and she echoed Fonseca’s demand for a full explanation from Guatemala for the attempted interception and threat of arrest – “I am completely outraged by the view that this government wants to put out there that somehow something wrong was done by Belizeans on that trip – (a) they were not there, and (b) they do not know.”
The National Security Council issued a release on Sunday, shortly after the end of the expedition to the Sarstoon, in which it makes no reference to any incident.
It did, however, make reference to vessels from the Territorial Volunteers transiting Sarstoon Island from the north and south. The NSC took credit for there being no major fallout from that “inadvertent occurrence.”
According to Fonseca, the tone of the letter indicates that Belize has lost hold of that corner of our territory near the Sarstoon. He asserts that a permanent presence in our Southern waters near the Sarstoon is essential to reassert control over the river. – “We demand that they build the Forward Operating Base immediately. There should be no delay in that matter,” Fonseca said. In addition there must be a Customs and Immigration presence in Barranco, the southernmost coastal community in the Toledo district.
As to the practice of Belizean vessels being required to seek clearance from the Guatemalan military stationed at the mouth of the Sarstoon, Fonseca says that must stop immediately.
Retired BDF Major Lloyd Jones, a member of the Belize Territorial Volunteers since its inception, claims that without a doubt what happened on Sunday was an assault on the sovereignty of the nation – “if you have been following the behaviour of the Guatemalans over the past few months, you will see an ever-increasing aggressive posture on the part of the Guatemalans even as our officials shirk and cower in the face of this kind of behaviour.” Jones claims that Sunday’s incident was nothing more or less than an armed incursion into Belize by Guatemalans.