By Marion Ali
The People’s United Party formally announced this week that it will not support taking the territorial dispute with Guatemala to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
At a press conference on Wednesday at the party’s Queen Street headquarters, PUP Leader Francis Fonseca said his party fully supports having a referendum on the matter – a referendum his party encourages the government to hold on the same day of general elections.
“The consensus within our party is very clear today. I have travelled across the country. I have discussed this matter with all 31 constituencies and it is very clear that the consensus is that at this time the People’s United Party is not in support of Belize going to the ICJ”, Fonseca said.
Fonseca reasoned that his party believes there are still too many questions, that the risks are too great and that this is also the feeling of the majority of Belizeans.
Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay, who is an advisor to Fonseca on the issue, said the PUP feels the country does not have much faith in the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wilfred Elrington in taking this issue to the ICJ because of things such as the Minister’s reference to the border as “artificial”.
“It is the consensus of the party that the team in charge of this fight … is not a team that we can trust.”
In addition, Courtenay said, “When our security forces act in defence of our sovereignty, the Belizean government compensates Guatemalans for it”.
With reference to Guatemalan encroachments,, Courtenay said: The PUP does not believe that country is doing anything to discourage its people from infiltrating our borders and illegally taking the natural resources from the Chiquibul and our seas”. He went on to say the Government of Guatemala turns a blind eye to the incursions.
“We do not believe that the Government of Guatemala is acting in good faith. …Until we see manifest signs of good faith, tangible signs on the ground, we are not in support of going to the ICJ”, he continued.
Courtenay added that there needs to be a “settled arrangement” in place that is going to implement the result of the ICJ beforehand. “There is no point in going to court and winning, having our territorial integrity upheld and the Guatemalans do not participate in marking the borders. We want that guarantee in place, up front, before we go to the ICJ.”
The PUP promised to issue a formal statement on its position on the matter at a later date.