Government of Belize Places Temporary Restrictions on Movement in Belize’s Portion of the Sarstoon River for One Month

The Government of Belize, in an act of desperation to try and stop the Belize Territorial Volunteers from heading to the Sarstoon on Saturday vlcsnap-2016-05-03-11h56m54s103, has made a new statutory instrument that in effect bans Belizeans from the Sarstoon River.  This historical move was announced today, Friday April 29,  via a press release  which says that 

“…after consulting with the Prime Minister, His Excellency the Governor General of Belize has made Regulations under Section 2 of the Public Safety Act, Chapter 142 of the Substantive Laws of Belize, RE 2011. The regulations prohibit persons and vessels, without lawful authority, from entering into Belize’s portion of the Sarstoon River. The regulations take effect from today and the restrictions will remain in force for one month. Government advises that this course of action has become necessary in order to prevent any “commotion” or “threat to public safety” that might arise in consequence of the continuing tense and dangerous standoff between Belize and vlcsnap-2016-05-03-11h56m56s910Guatemala over the Sarstoon, and the tipping point that could be caused by the unregulated insertion of members of the Belizean public into this very volatile mix. During the one month period for which the restrictions are to last, it is expected that a diplomatic solution will be found to the problem, and that the solution will provide for safe passage of Belizean civilians along the Sarstoon River.”

The backlash of the new SI has been swift and the magnitude of its implications is perhaps still being analyzed. We heard first  from BTV Leader Wil Maheia who told us despite the new regulation, the trip is still on. In fact, reports are that so far, over 100 people have called to say they will be joining in on the expedition, Saturday, including members of the NTUCB, BNTU, BGYEA vlcsnap-2016-05-03-11h56m58s875and BTV members. Most, if not all media, will be following the group on the expedition. Now that it is in essence illegal, according to the new Belizean regulations, to visit the Sarstoon, it will be interesting to see how Saturday will play out. Will the BDF’s energies now be focused on the Belizeans headed to the Sarstoon instead of on the Guatemalans? One thing is for sure, the penalties associated with the violation of this SI are steep. It says, “ Every person who infringes or contravenes the provisions of regulation 3 commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months or to both such fine and imprisonment.According to a statement by the Opposition side of Government, The People’s United Party says that it is appalled by today’s announcement by the Government of Belize that it has introduced Regulations under the Public Safety Act to prohibit persons and vessels, without lawful authority, from entering into Belize’s portion of the Sarstoon River for the period of one month. Hon John Briceno met with Prime Minister Dean Barrow earlier today and informed him that the PUP does not support this draconian measure, considering it to be a retrograde and highly prejudicial step. It says

vlcsnap-2016-05-03-11h57m35s267In the face of Guatemala’s assertion of sovereignty over the entire Sarstoon River, this Regulation with the specific objective of preventing Belizeans from entering Belize’s portion of it , may be viewed in law as acquiescence by Belize to Guatemala’s assertion of sovereignty over the entire Sarstoon. The press release continues to state that, with growing Guatemalan aggression, the regulation will only embolden Guatemala and harden its resolve to assert sovereignty over the entire Sarstoon.”

It saysvlcsnap-2016-05-03-11h57m37s373

It is an act of cowardice by the Government to threaten to arrest and fine patriotic Belizeans who wish to exercise their constitutional right to move freely and peacefully in Belizean waters when Guatemalans illegally pour over our Western border every day committing a range of illegalities, pillaging our resources and damaging our environment”.

Finally, the PUP press release argues that since the BTV has issued a Declaration of Peace and has prepared a Code of Conduct for participants to sign, vlcsnap-2016-05-03-11h57m39s200

“… it is inaccurate to say that there could be any threat to public safety in Belize by members of the BTV. The only threat to public safety will come from Guatemala.”

The PUP Press release concludes that the legality and constitutionality of the Regulation is highly suspect and so it calls upon the Government of Belize to:

“ 1. Declare whether the Regulation will be equally and impartially enforced against Guatemalans who enter into Belize’s portion of the Sarstoon River; and 2. Immediately rescind the unpatriotic Regulation.”vlcsnap-2016-05-03-11h57m40s596

About the Author