The Maritime Areas Act was introduced by the People’s United Party in the Belize House of Representatives in August of 1991. To say the least, it was a controversial bill. The UDP had just lost that election two years before but they supported the Bill which laid down a framework for Belize to only claim three miles of territorial seas from its allotted 12 miles. Guatemala would then lay claim to the remaining 9. The Maritime Areas Act was so controversial that it played a major role in the split of the United Democratic Party as their Albert area representative, Hon. Philip Goldson, led a breakaway from the party which eventually became known as National Alliance for Belizean Rights (NABR). The then UDP Freetown area representative, Hon. Derek Aikman, was a part of that breakaway group. Today, Aikman was a guest on Krem’s WUB morning vibes show where he made a sensational revelation that it was not the PUP which initiated the move for the Maritime Areas Act. He claims this happened under the auspices of then foreign minister and current prime minister, Dean Barrow.
Derrick Aikman, Former UDP Official: Belizeans have long been under the impression that the maritime areas bill was a creation or a creature of the PUP. I thought so even at the time of its introduction at the house, I thought so too cause I was none the wiser. Years and years after I was reliably informed from somebody who was at the meeting in Rottan, this is not a hear, this is somebody who was present at the meeting, where out then foreign minister which was the cabinet that I belong too attended. It was really the foreign minister at the time Mister Barrow who, without any prompting or request or demands from the Guatemalans who, as the person used the expression, offered them the territorial season in the South on a silver platter; just offered it to them like we are prepared to do this. I have found out subsequent to that that what may have motivated Mister Barrow to do it is because there was those in the PUP who were of that view and influenced him to do it. So while he was the one that, as the person leading the meeting at the time in Rottan as foreign minister, he was the one to articulate it. I have been made to understand that he was articulating a position, a view, that the PUPs had themselves lobbied for. That that he did that was kept a secret from us in the cabinet, we never knew, only himself and the Prime Minister knew. We were never told anything about that and the first time we learnt about the maritime areas bill was the Monday before the Friday, the Monday of the same week of the Friday when the PUPs were going to introduce it in the house. Mister Escevel called a meeting of us elected representatives to tell us that the PUPs would be introducing this bill on Friday and that he wants us to support it and right from the get go as he finished I was the first one to say to him in the meeting “Not me. I am not doing that”
Aikman explained why he decided to come forward:
Derrick Aikman, Former UDP Official: I didn’t do this because I want to necessarily expose anybody and, – the last thing I want to do is to get personal; it’s not personal for me. It’s not party political for me. But I thought that it’s the same people, what keeps bothering me is that it’s the same people who were the proponents of that act and the way they went about it – and because of all the disconnect I keep hearing coming out of our foreign minister currently. I mean if I tell you the amount of questions and doubts that I have about what’s going on because of what’s coming out of his mouth. You know and I said something, if this will help Belizeans to become more cautious, more alert, more circumspect in analyzing what’s happening today. Because in my view, it’s the same Modus Operandi that took place back then that they figure, ‘Oh, we are the authority. We are the geniuses, we will just make these decisions without consulting the people. You can’t do that.’ The fact that they felt that they had the authority to give away my 9 miles of territorial seas of the South to Guatemala without even consulting with me as a Belizean is wrong! It’s treasonous in my view and it’s criminal to be honest with you. And they did it without the Belizean people knowing either, we found out after the fact. How can you give away territory man my gosh, without consulting the people? It’s unpardonable in my view.
Interviewer: Do you consider that they are dragging their feet now to get rid of that?
Derrick Aikman, Former UDP Official: Well. I was told once by my then leader that they are committed to the bill. So I knew long time about when I heard that the made a compromise with Mr. Goldson that if whoever ran with them, they would repeal the bill. I knew it wouldn’t happen. Mr. Philip Dead and gone, they in power look for how long, anything repeal? No because there are some arrangements that are iron clad between them and the Guatemalans and that is what worries me about this present situation with Guatemala. I mean, we have just surrendered Starstoon; all of a sudden you hear that we are squatters, and it’s as though, as far as the foreign minister is concerned, da like we done mi deh da the ICJ. There is no if’s not buts about it so like me, who is opposed to going to the ICJ, well we neem count because we just a find a way fi gloss over uno and dismiss uno a da deh we gwen.
We’ll have more from Aikman’s interview in subsequent newscasts.