By Ingrid Fernandez, Staff Reporter
Facilitators of Friday’s Bar Association workshop, Assad Shoman and Eamon Courtney gave their perspectives on the direction our territorial dispute with Guatemala should take and warn that the claim could be heading for the worst.
Speaking on the issue, Shoman said that, on a whole the country should take back the initiative to “decide ourselves what we are going to do to push this thing forward and finally end that claim of Guatemala to Belize.”
Courtney contributing on a couple of topics related to the claim, stated that, firstly the main objective is to define direction. Courtney stated that the Sarstoon issue has become a problem for Belize and it is imperative that Belize focuses on “confidence building measures.”
Courtney stated that diplomacy with the western neighbors is important as long as Guatemala also cooperates to be a good neighbor.
Shoman stated that a cause of the deterioration of the bilateral relationships has been the fault of Guatemala for breaking conventions they agree upon and it could signal a turn for the worst. “I think that the Belizean people have to wake up a little bit. They don’t seem to realize that we have an imminent threat. Things are getting worst. The Sarstoon is just the tip of the iceberg.”
Shoman stated that an international presence, such as the Organization of American States (OAS) is necessary to negotiate the relationship that Belize and Guatemala need to have.
The OAS however, stated Shoman will only negotiate the issue if there is movement and development on the claim and a resolution is insight.
Courtney stated that the political machinery so far has conducted negotiations behind closed doors and from what has come out of the negotiations, criminal issues such as human trafficking and illegal crossings are not addressed.
Shoman stated that the idea of the government to develop the western border and place more movement there in form of a road for farming is a good idea the government should pursue. He disagreed with any prohibitions for volunteers to travel south to the Sarstoon and show Belizean presence.
Courtney stated that the Belize Defense Force (BDF) and Coast Guard are commendable in ensuring presence in the south but “what needs to happen is an agreement between Belize and Guatemala as to how to ensure that tensions do not occur in the Sarstoon.”
Courtney stated that a main priority is for Belize to take back the agenda and dictate direction as to how the claim should go.