Letter: Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do... not!
Dear Sir: Amid the latest, illegal and boldfaced move by Guatemala, to outrightly claim not only Sarstoon Island, but also the entire Sarstoon River, which has been acknowledged internationally as the shared border between Belize and its bellicose neighbour to the west, since 1859, understandably the stakes have become even higher insofar as Belize’s territorial integrity and national security is concerned -http://amandala.com.bz/news/guatemala-claims-sarstoon/ This is accentuated and compounded via the unholy bipartisan approach involving the recently re-elected UDP administration of Dean Barrow alongside Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition – PUP – as they persist in pushing their failed “4A Policy” of: appeasement, acquiescence, accommodation and adherence. Given that we have ended the Lenten Season, with the conclusion of Easter, one is inclined to posit the notion of “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do”, to the current, untenable debacle in which Belize finds itself. But to do so, would inevitably lend to and perpetuate the endemic cognitive dissonance that unfortunately defines Belize’s citizenry. I have stated publicly, “Belize, this is no time to be politically correct” and I steadfastly hold that position, based on principle, which is steeped in an analysis of the actions of Belize’s presiding political directorate. I have always firmly subscribed to the view that, “actions speak louder than words” and amid the actions of Belize’s piss-poor, spineless and visionless politicians aka “so-called leaders”, both their actions, as well as lack thereof, speak volumes. Buttress that with empirical facts and it makes a compelling case for what shall highlight. Since the powers that be signed onto the once, much vaunted Compromis in 2008, the status of Belize’s territorial integrity has slipped considerably and this is in large part, due to the seemingly illogical, approach of those elected and vested with the responsibility to ensure that the best interest of our nation-state remains paramount. Take for example, the asinine approach taken by Belize’s foreign minister on the occasion in which the Guatemalan Armed Forces (GAF) illegally entered Belize’s territorial waters and forbade members of the Belize Territorial Volunteers (BTV) from traversing the Sarstoon River. On that occasion he chose to affix blame to the BTV for purportedly provoking the Guatemalans, by way of simply venturing to visit what is sovereign Belizean territory. Such ludicrous assertion was supported by none other than the head of government, the prime minister. Mind you, these obviously irrational assertions have come from the supposedly top-level of Belize’s elected officialdom. Yet the lunacy does not stop there, as a subsequent incident of Guatemalan aggression, in which the GAF, once again, illegally entered Belize’s territorial waters and no less accosted the Belize Defence Force (BDF) personnel stationed at the site of the impending Forward Operating Base, at the mouth of the Sarstoon River. To this the GOB sent the proverbial diplomatic note, of which none to-date has yielded any positive results for Belize and much to the chagrin of those who are attuned to the situation, the prime minister did not see fit for the Belize delegation to demand the issue of Guatemala’s latest military incursion be included as a necessary part of the agenda during the most recent round of talks at the OAS Headquarters in Washington, DC, on 15th March 2016. Instead, he demonstrated his lack of understanding concerning the gravity of the matter, by fundamentally leaving it to hope, that the Guatemalan delegation would be inclined to table the issue. These are but the latest in a most disturbing line of decisions being made by the so-called “professionals”, as it relates to this matter of national importance. Hence, therein lies the crux of the matter, I seek to highlight via this correspondence. To the rational mind, I dare say, that given the tenuous situation involving Guatemala’s intransigence, one would expect the comportment of Belize’s elected officials to be indicative of: sound, prudent and reasoned deliberation. To-date, this has not been manifest in any way, fashion or form. Instead the “brain trust” of Belize’s political and diplomatic elite persist to pursue a course of action that can only be described as being indicative of what I have coined the “4 I’s” being: impotent, informed-not (aka uninformed), ineffective and insidious. Let it be known that if it looks, walks, acts and quacks like a duck, I am more than convinced of the reality that it is a duck. This of course, remains in-line with my commitment to call it as I see it and hence my signalling to Belizeans and true friends of Belize, both at home abroad, that “...this is no time to be politically correct”. In my humble assessment, it is clear the PM, his entire Cabinet and their colleagues across the aisle are playing a high stakes game with Belize’s territorial integrity. Why else would such lunacy abound, when it is clear the Guatemalans have the upper hand in the OAS-facilitated farce of a process. It should come as no surprise that corruption is the bane of any nation’s productive development. Being a proud citizen of Belize, it pains my heart to admit, but the reality is that our government, its purveyors and the subsequent practices that are supplanted in place of sound policies, across the board, is testimony that corruption abounds, particularly wherever politicians play a prominent role. With this in mind, I have no choice but to hearken back to yet another adage that has stood the test of time and does not appear to show prospects of being disproved anytime soon. That to which I refer, is the notion that “money is the root of all evil”. In such regard, there is no doubt big money plays a critical role and based on my observation of the current political status quo in Belize, these politicians would sell their mother, if it meant gaining a profit. I say that without reservation because that which the Belizean electorate has continued to elect to the highest offices in our nation, in a majority sense, have done absolutely nothing to disprove such sentiment. The vast majority of them get involved in the political arena seemingly for one, fundamental purpose; to get rich, quick! Therefore, based on this reality, it should come as no surprise that the pure idiocy and lack of prudent judgement that has come to define the GOB’s handling of Guatemala’s unfounded claim, most likely is rooted in an illicit sense of doing that which needs to be done, in order to ensure access to the root of all evil. I qualify this notion by drawing your attention to the fact that there is a not-so-innocuous group known as “The Group of Friends of Belize”, that plays a critical role in the OAS-facilitated effort to have the issue of Guatemala’s unfounded claim, taken to the ICJ. Their function is described as acting “as an advisory body to the Secretary General and (to) provide political and operational support for undertaking the various activities contemplated under the agreement on confidence-building measures in force.” That is diplomatic double-talk that essentially means they are the driving force, both financially and politically to ensure that a particular agenda is realised. The agenda is that Belize and Guatemala take the matter to the ICJ and these financiers have expressed their resolve that their agenda must be fulfilled, as though it is a foregone conclusion. Of note, it was reported that funds to the tune of approximately US$40 million and US$8 million were allocated, respectively for Guatemala and Belize. Additionally, funds deriving from that cache were earmarked for various amenities including: US$1 million for research, US$2 million for referendum, US$700,000 for outreach which includes to Diaspora communities, US$200,000 for travel, US$20,000 to host a website, and US$10,000 per month concerning office space in Belize! Within the Belize context, such large amounts of funds have been disbursed to a government that does not see fit to sign on to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), a document that since 2003 has been available for the GOB to commit, yet the administration of Prime Minister Dean Barrow vehemently refuses to acknowledge. I trust this picture is becoming increasingly clearer. Effectively, the longer this charade is kept on-track, insofar as the prescribed route of going to the ICJ is concerned, those in positions of authority and influence, continue to have access to the lavish perks and resources courtesy of the process. Meanwhile the nation’s security hangs in the balance. Based on Belize’s current state, in terms of the application of good governance practices and principles is concerned, or better yet, the lack thereof, there exists little reason to place confidence in the willingness of the authorities to do anything other than hustle for their own benefit. Based on the obvious failure of the OAS-sponsored effort which has allowed Guatemala to move the proverbial goalpost on at least two occasions, with no noteworthy resistance from their Belizean counterparts, it should be noted that doing the most prudent thing on Belize’s behalf, in light of Guatemala’s continued violation of the spirit of diplomacy and mutual cooperation, is to put an end this process and take the matter to the UN Security Council. Yet, such a sagacious move would undoubtedly put a damper on the sweet arrangement, being enjoyed by the political elites. As matters stand, Belize’s foreign minister has hinted at yet another display of his government’s piss-poor “4A Policy” by way of giving the impression that the Guatemalan demand that Belize revise its Referendum Act to reduce the required voter turnout, so as to better ensure the necessary threshold is met , shall be taken into consideration. Yes you read correctly. Guatemalan demands regarding our systems of governance appear to be better received than the calls for reform, by our own Belizean citizens! Therefore, to the person who has no stake in ensuring the continued extension of what has proven a failed process and who is only interested in ensuring that his nation’s territorial integrity and by extension, sovereignty is maintained, I see only one reality pertaining to what has amounted to that of a high stakes game of “show me the money”. In effect, those elites who are benefitting from the perks shall do all they can to ensure the gravy train continues; even if it means appearing foolish to all who are attuned to the reality of the situation. Hence one is made to question where, precisely, lies the allegiance of Belize’s representatives concerning this issue. Is it to ensure the wellbeing of our nation? Or is it to make certain they enjoy selfish benefits, at the risk of permanently changing the geographic reality of our nation? I put nothing past these officials, for their track record, in terms of utilising good governance principles and practices speaks for itself and if you have yet to discern, it is nothing good! After all, what sense does it make for them to seek to extend a process that has taken approximately eight years and has yet to yield even an equitable rubric through which substantive progress can be sought? Maybe, just maybe it very well involves the US$2.5 million the respective foreign ministers of both Belize and Guatemala are seeking, from outside the “Group of Friends” to purportedly, keep open the dysfunctional and ineffective OAS Office at the so-called adjacency zone! As I mentioned from the onset, given the time of year, I would normally be inclined to affix the notion of “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” But being faced with the cold, hard facts of the unscrupulous element that represents my nation on this matter of paramount importance, I must remain forever the realist. They know precisely what they are doing and it stinks to high heaven, because they are unnecessarily placing, in jeopardy the geographic and socio-economic well-being of Belize. Our national security is at risk. Belizeans and true friends of Belize, we are at a critical juncture and our elected officials have demonstrated on numerous occasions, their inability to lead the nation accordingly. In the sage words of the Hon. Philip S.W. Goldson, “The time to save your country is (NOW), before you lose it. In that regard, I implore you to stop taking the word of those whose actions warrant skepticism. Going to the ICJ is neither the sole, nor is it the most prudent means by which to handle this pressing issue. I encourage you to do your due diligence and open your minds to the viable alternative that has been tabled by the Belize Progressive Party. For the love of country, do not allow the powers that be, to hoodwink you into believing that their sham of a process involving the OAS is in the best interest of our nation. Since 2008, our territorial integrity has eroded considerably and in keeping with the spirit of the notion expressed by Albert Einstein, I remind one and all that “looking to the very same source which created the problem you face, is tantamount to insanity.” Take ownership of that which is yours, Belize, and let the powers that be know, your displeasure with their willful negligence. This can first be achieved by voting a resounding “NO to the ICJ” at the referendum. Furthermore, prove proactive in holding your elected officials accountable.. 8867 Today 8867 Tomorrow 8867 Forever Belize, Sovereign and Free - NO ICJ! Paco Smith Chairman Belize Progressive Party