By Alexis R. Milan
Opposition Senator Lisa Shoman, revealed at Friday’s Senate Sitting, that Guatemala has issued a not so cordial response to the Government of Belize’s protest note regarding the August 16th incident at the Sarstoon Island and says GOB must come clean to the public.
Shoman said while the government announced that it had sent a protest note to Guatemala following the incident, involving members of the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) and the Guatemalan Navy at the Sarstoon Island, the government never told the public that Guatemala answered that note.
According to Shoman, the protest note Belize sent to Guatemala wasn’t as strongly-worded as the government made it seem.
Shoman said in Belize’s protest note to Guatemala, the government said Guatemalan navy vessels rammed Belizean civilian vessels, obstructed free navigation and entered illegally into Belizean waters. She said Belize also reaffirmed its position as to the Anglo-Guatemalan Treaty and said that until the issue is settled in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Belize will stick to the Confidence-Building Measures agreed upon by both nations.
We would have wanted to see that kind of language in the protest note from Belize to Guatemala, like that of the one sent back from Guatemala to Belize, she said.
According to Shoman, the Guatemalans responded by rejecting all assertions made by Belize in relation to the August 16th BTV expedition and put blame on the Belize government for allowing the BTV to go to Sarstoon Island. Guatemala also said it does not recognize the existence of any borders with Belize.
Shoman said there has to be recognition that the BTV acted within its rights by asserting its sovereignty as citizens of Belize. She added that she doesn’t regret having accompanied the BTV on that trip.
Guatemala also said it allowed the BTV to go to Cadenas and provided escort for the group, for which Belize should be grateful, because the Sarstoon is their river, their island and their territory.
Guatemala also said it will continue to do so in a spirit of goodwill, which has been distorted by the Government of Belize, who misinterpreted its cooperation as a non-existent act of sovereignty, Shoman said.
She said Guatemala’s response demands that GOB respond with precision, correctness and with an immediate assertion to one and all, that Belize claims the Sarstoon as our southernmost boundary since 1859 and will not retract.
She said the government also needs to build the forward operating base on Sarstoon Island, bulk up customs and immigration at Baranco, deal with illegal fishermen and gill-nets in the Sarstoon river and re-internationalize Belize’s just claim.