Leader of the Opposition Mr. Francis Fonseca announced this week that the People’s United Party will not go along with the government’s plan to take the Belize-Guatemala dispute to the International Court of Justice.
The reasons for not doing so put forward by his legal counsel, Mr. Eamon Courtenay boil down to something resembling now is not the right time.
Mr. Fonseca revealed that he and his party have decided against the ICJ after an extensive consultation with party rank and file all over Belize.
Mr. Courtenay’s comments seemed to be more partisan. We don’t have any confidence in this government and its Foreign Minister, he seems to be saying. Moreover we don’t trust the Guatemalans.
The question of whether invoking the ICJ is in the best interest of Belize appears to have been a secondary consideration.
Mr. Courtenay’s blaming of Guatemela for not doing anything to restrain her citizens from crossing over into Belize and his criticism of the Foreign Minister for referring to Belize’s western border as “artificial” seems more rhetorical than cerebral.
His arguments do nothing to prevent further widespread migrations along Chiquibul’s porous border flank. His expectation that Guatemala should restrain her people from coming across into Belize, even if that were politically achievable, is completely unrealistic.
The only serious argument for not going to the ICJ is the one expressed from time to time – that Belize has nothing to gain by going there.
But that argument is an exercise in reverse logic. Belize has lots to gain by going to the ICJ and have that court validate, once and for all, our ancestral claim to this land.
To fail to do so would constitute a serious lapse in forward planning and a rejection of more than two decades of consistent foreign policy in working for an end to the dispute.
So it appears that the United Democratic Party will have to go it alone in the national debate leading up to our country’s referendum.
We understand why the PUP is in no mood to work with the UDP on this matter of national importance. But in its resolve to break with the past and chart a new way forward, the PUP is allowing emotion to cloud its better judgement in by-passing this opportunity to lead, rather than be led.