Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dean Barrow is confronting the spectre of Guatemala again with the news of an amendment to the special agreement allowing Guatemala to proceed on its own with a referendum on taking the unfounded Guatemalan claim to the ICJ. It was the Government’s intention all along to inform the public on its plans however there was an issue in Guatemala that changed plans. Before we give you the Prime Minister’s explanation of that he answers the question of what advantages Belize has in giving Guatemala first go at a referendum.
“First of all, in terms of the substance of the change I don’t understand how anyone could see that as prejudicial to Belize. The Guatemalans had come asking for change some time ago, a year and a half ago, I can’t quite remember, but at that time they wanted Belize to go first and I said, “Not on your nelly. That is not going to happen.” Now they come back and they say in terms of their own timetable and the elections and so on that they would want to go first. Well it seems to me that that is very much to Belize’s advantage. If they go first and their people say no we don’t even need to hold a referendum. So if there is any pressure that arises as a consequence of the change the pressure is on Guatemala.”
The Prime Minister said he was not about to dump on his Foreign Minister, especially since according to him both Opposition Leader Francis Fonseca and the PUP after consultation agreed to the change and all that remained was to send out the press release, which was never done.
Hon. Dean Barrow
“How you will ask me to comment on that? You want me to dump on my Foreign Minister. I won’t do that. I can’t do that. I will tell you, or I will repeat what I just said. It was my intention, it was the intention of the Cabinet that the public be informed of the proposed signing before Minister Ellington will travel to Guatemala. We have agreed that that will be done by way of a press release. Now presumably he thought that I was the same if he did it one on one with Isani. That meant a departure from the script. I don’t know that fundamentaly it makes a huge difference. When he spoke to Isani, he had not get gone to sign. I don’t believe he is gone even now. The public is informed by way of this one on one rather than by way of a general press release. “
And while he respects the view of those who disagree, it is a no-brainer for him: Belize can only gain from letting Guatemala go first. He also hit out at Senior Counsel Eamon Courtenay for his comments on the issue and hints at when Belize will take its case to the people.
Hon. Dean Barrow
“ I see his one-time foreign minister, who I check the Channel 7 archives, appeared at a public forum at Wesley Church with Fred Martinez and I don’t recollect who else and I see where he had said ‘look if you want to be saddled with this thing forever, the do nothing. But if we want a resolution as a country, the only way to get a resolution is to go to the ICJ.’ And now see him do a complete about face and I see the Leader of the Opposition suggesting that, well we are ready for the referendum now and the only reason I say, as I have said to the Guatemalans “no sir, not this year, possible next year, perhaps second half of next year” – Leader of the Opposition says ‘well that is because I am trying to ensure that there is no linkage between the referendum and the next general elections.’ Exactly. These are two separate things”
P.M. Barrow insists that the two things are separate and any attempt to force the referendum into being an issue will not work; not to mention, he points out, that elections will not be held until the Government’s programs are completed. He says he will say yes, but that’s only his vote.
Hon. Dean Barrow
“Our position remains the same. There is going to be in terms of our party, in terms of the cabinet a conscience vote on this issue. A free vote. I’ve said that when we had the thing at the Fort George and I repeat, I am not afraid in terms of my own position. In a referendum I will vote to go to the ICJ and I am not going to do an about face because of political expediency. But, I don’t know what the Leader of the Opposition thinks he is achieving. I can say the same thing. If I took a poll now, I would suspect that the majority of my cabinet would not vote the way I would vote. But, it doesn’t matter and there is no need to take that sort of a poll, because the referendum will come when it will come after the general elections and the cabinet, the party officials like the rest of this country will be free to vote the way they see it.