Having a referendum in Belize and a referendum in Guatemala on the same day, to decide on whether to submit the Belize-Guatemala claim to the International Court of Justice, provides a clear way forward for solving this knotty century-old dispute.
Guatemala has indicated that she wants to combine her referendum with the day of her run-off elections which will be on Sunday, October 20.
The Government of Belize has indicated that this is not a convenient time for us to hold the referendum, and has given the go-ahead for Guatemala to proceed alone.
But if Belize should opt for a later referendum it would cause voters at home to lose interest and dampen the impact of the vote. The earlier Guatemalan referendum will have overshadowed ours, and depending on what the Guatemalans decide, our referendum could become a near-meaningless exercise. Our years of concentrated negotiations will have gone for nought.
We believe, and we earnestly propose, that the Government of Belize reconsider its position, and decide to hold our referendum in Belize on the same day that the Guatemalans hold theirs,whatever date that is.
The proposal by the retiring administration of President Otto Perez Molina to hold the referendum on October 20 is not set in concrete. The two leading candidates, Manuel Baldizón of Libertad Democrática Renovada and Sandra Torres of Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza have both said they don’t like this idea.
It is possible that the new government when it comes to power will set a later date for the referendum. But whatever the date, we are convinced that we in Belize should do everything in our power to move the programme forward. We must also not allow Guatemala to get a march on us where this referendum is concerned.
Instead, we can match Guatemala step for step. We can do this because we have some three months to prepare, and because we know that Belizean electors are already familiar with the situation and what is required of them.
We believe that if we pull this off, the results will be immensely satisfying because the original design of the OAS treaty will be met, and we will be able to demonstrate to the world and to the ICJ in particular, that Belize means business when it comes to defending our claim and our sovereignty.