Unity for a YES vote to the ICJ:Four former PUP Foreign Ministers and One UDP say YES Print
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Friday, 11 January 2019 00:00

On Wednesday January 9, historically, five former Foreign Ministers signed a declaration proposing a YES vote in the upcoming referendum to take the Guatemalan claim to the International Court of Justice.

Led by Prime Minister of Belize, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow (Foreign Minister 1985-1989 and 1993 -1998); Rt. Hon. Said Musa (1989-1993 and 1998-2002); Assad Shoman (2002-2003); Godfrey Smith (2003-2006); and Lisa Shoman (2007 –2008), they filed into the conference room at the Biltmore Hotel. The program led off with the National Anthem, a prayer by Canon Leroy Flowers, and subsequently the declaration read by Lisa Shoman followed by the actual signing. Thereafter the former ministers took on questions from those gathered, be it observers of members of the media.

Speaking on what was the motivation for the group to sign the declaration, Smith stated categorically that, “we have not been trotted out at the behest of any foreign force or power. And the idea was generated from among the foreign ministers themselves. It is a question of duty, honor, principle [and] it’s as simple as that.”

Asked if there was fear of any political backlash, Lisa Shoman was categorical: “I do not speak for any political party on any issue and in particular on this issue. I have been adamant since the beginning that my position is a position held first and foremost because of how I feel and what I believe to be right for my country. I have absolutely no fear about political repercussions because, happily, I can tell you at this point that even were I to have political aspirations, which I don’t at the moment, what is and always has been most important to me is not to be convenient but to be right when it comes to my country.”

Said Musa for his part took on the position as an individual who wants and end to the claim and took ownership for initiating the path to the ICJ. “I am here as a former foreign minister not as representing any political party. I am a PUP and I will remain a PUP! I want to make that absolutely clear! Among our discussion the foreign ministers had, I was asked the question wouldn’t you be following Dean Barrow on this issue? My answer is: Prime Minister Dean Barrow is following me because we were the government before and we were the ones who took the decision to pursue this path of going to the ICJ.”

“We need to put party politics aside man. This is too big an issue we are talking about our country now!”

Following up on that trend, Lisa Shoman pointed out that the years when Belize has been most successful in managing the claim was when we have approached the issue on a bi-partisan basis. She stated, “We do not go into any tribunal in a devided manner and think we are going to fight our best fight.”

For his part Smith noted that, “I have an obligation to step forward as a former foreign minister to state that voting yes to go to the ICJ is the thing to do. I fully appreciate how sensitive and divisive the issue has been. I fully appreciate that visceral fear on the part of a wide swath of the population that there is a chance that if we go we will lose some maritime or terrestrial territory. Having considered the matter, having looked at the opinions, not only now but for all the years that I have been intimately involved. I am here, and I say so to put the matter on the record, because I am convinced and I believe that there is no realistic chance of Belize losing any territory, land or sea if we go to the ICJ and that we should do so now.”

Keeping things in perspective however, Prime Minister Barrow noted that while there may be a NO vote it would have implications where, “the international community may look askance at us, but it will not mean that Guatemala will take over and life will go on.” “If the Belizean people vote NO, we must respect that. Whatever additional difficulties we will face we will make every effort to overcome. We will continue to move forward as a sovereign nation, beating in any way we can this unfounded claim.” “I will not preach any counsel of despair. If people vote no its going to make it complicated, problematic but we as a people ultimately will be bound to overcome in some form or fashion.”

For her part, Shoman, put it like this, “it is important to calculate that a no vote has a cost and it is not simply the impact intenationally, the prime minister has articulated that well enough but the declaration makes it abundantly clear that there is a cost and an impact to inaction and that is something that we need to absorb and internalize and understand. Not doing nothing has a cost and that we are laying a burden on our children if we don’t look for a way to resolve this within our lifetime.”

Notably absent at the signing was former foreign minister, Eamon Courtenay, Moderator of the event, Ambassador Dyllan Vernon explained that he was approached and declined to be a part of the event.

Last Updated on Friday, 11 January 2019 10:24