There has recently been a lot of controversy surrounding the long overdue Forward Operating Base (FOB) at the Sarstoon Island which was proposed since the PUP days. In May earlier this year the Belize Coast Guard travelled to the Sarstoon Island, Belize’s Southern most territorial point, to perform reconnaissance duty for the possibilities of establishing a base on the island. That resulted in tense confrontations between the Belize Coast Guard and the Guatemalan Navy. Since then, we have not heard anything about the forward operating base until last week when the Minister of Foreign Affairs revealed that the Guatemalan authorities had issues with building the base inside sovereign Belizean territory. The project to build a base on the island seems to have been put on hold until discussions are made with our neighbours who claim half of Belize’s territory. In an interview today, the Minister of National Security says this is not a case of Belize bowing down to mighty Guatemala but a case of two neighbours engaging in dialogue as part of confidence building measures.
We have informed the Guatemalan government about our intention to place a forward operating base there. They have asked us to consult, to dialogue about this. That I believe is ongoing and in a very short time, our government will continue with its decision as to where we will be placing that forward operating base somewhere on the Sarstoon. When we stop to dialogue, when we stop to talk, when we stop to consult, it is not that we are decreasing our obligation to protect the integrity and sovereignty of our country. When we stop to talk, it is not that we are abdicating our responsibility to protect the integrity, the territorial integrity, of our country, but that is what civilized countries and civilized peoples do when there is conflict and when there is need to talk. But at no time will our government abdicate our responsibility to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of our country. And I do believe that once the consultations are over and I know once the consultations are over, we will proceed to do what is in the best interest of our sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Under the OAS, Belize and Guatemala are required to dialogue before there is movement within the adjacency zone, as a part of the confidence building measures. However, the Sarstoon Island, enshrined in Belize’s constitution and written into our National Anthem, has always been perceived as Belizean sovereign territory and not part of the adjacency zone.