In our previous newscast, we aired portions of an interview the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon Wilfred Elrington, held with our media colleagues on Tuesday. In that extended interview, the Minister spoke about several topics relating to Guatemala including the Speech by outgoing deputy Prime Minister Gaspar Vega.He commented on Guatemalan President Jimmy Moralez’s response after Belize accused Guatemala’s military behavior on the Sarstoon as a contravention with the Cumbre de la Comunidad de Estados Latino Americanos (CELAC) agreement. When asked about the recent prevention of the media from entering the Sarstoon river after the Istanbul agreement by the Guatemalan Military, Elrington said that it is still his understanding that Guatemala had agreed to this position to allow for freedom of movement on the river until a mechanism can be worked out.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: My understanding as of today is that we continue to use it without hindrance and in the mean time we are working on a formal mechanism so that in the event of any untoward incident taking place, we have a way to resolve it harmoniously. We haven’t heard from the armed forces but what we got from the Ministry of foreign affairs was that the foreign minister had not had enough time to be able to brief the military as to what in fact we had agreed in Istanbul, he was travelling and you know there is the chain of command, people are not going to do things unless they get instructions, that is the explanation we got.
But later in the same video, Minister Elrington later admitted that the Guatemalan Foreign Minister did not see the agreement in the same light.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: Certanly the last mechanism in relation to the Sarstoon was on the understanding that while we are working out the mechanism, our people would be able to go and come without hindrance, that is our understanding, that is the context in which we were negotiating. I think the foreign minister of Guatemala suggested that he was not understand it in that light, but you know anybody who has any knowledge of negotiation and documentation knows that a document can be interpreted differently by different people.
Now this is the same Guatemalan Foreign Minister who was at the very same meeting in Istanbul that Elrington and our Government claimed had agreed that free transit would be allowed for Belizeans while the mechanism was being worked out. So how did the PUP conduct an incident free trip to the Sarsrtoon? Well it seems that even contrary to the Belize Government position, PUP informed the Guatemalans that they were conducting an educational trip.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: I not only was told that, I was told that by word of mouth by the foreign minister of Guatemala and I was shown the two boats going around because the Guatemalans had photographed them. They did not see the drone but the drone was on top photographing every move they made. I think they want to move to the point where they want to normalize the issue and that’s my view.
Reporter: Told them that the PUP was having an educational trip.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: I never told them that I don’t know how they got that. I had no part in that, I don’t know if the PUP told them that.
Reporter: Did the foreign affairs ministry send any message\
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: Absolutely not. I never saw nothing. I was travelling, but I sure nothing was said. It is not my position and it will never be my position that we have to ask to use our own waters. That is a no no.
But that was not the only eyebrow raising part of the Elington interview. It seems that the Minister of Foreign Affairs takes particular opposition to the media’s use of the word Annexation in describing Guatemala’s declaration that the Sarstoon is Guatemalan National waters and that Guatemalan sovereignty and laws will be enforced. Elrington says that Guatemala is NOT annexing the Sarstoon because they are claiming the entire country.
Hon. Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs: There are in some sections of the media that people are suggesting that infact that Guatemalans are annexing the Sarstoon and the Guatemalans have annexed the Sarstoon. That again has no basis in reality because It was on the twenty-first of September, 1939 that the Guatemalans wrote to the British to say to them that they will be repudiating the entire 1859 Treaty. The truth is that if you can successfully repudiate the Treaty then it means that the Treaty comes to an end and the property would revert back to the Guatemalans. But the contention of the British is that the property was never Guatemala’s, and their assertion that they were repudiating the 1859 Treaty was not a valid legal position. So the British never took the view that any part of Belize became the territory of Guatemala, and they have maintained that up to this day. That is the view that we maintain. Guatemalans are claiming though that in fact they now own the whole territory. That is the effect of repudiating the contract, the Convention and there can be no separate regime in relation to the Sarstoon because the whole country – if the Convention falls, then the whole country becomes the subject of the dispute, you see, and there is no separation between the rest of Belize and the Sarstoon. So they would technically claim the whole country and so it is not correct to say that they are annexing the Sarstoon. What is the proper situation is to say that they are stopping people from using the Sarstoon because really and truly they are claiming the whole territory as theirs.
We remind you that “Annexation” is by definition a formal act whereby a state proclaims its sovereignty over territory hitherto outside its domain. If it is not annexation, as according to Foreign Minister Elrington it is not, then might one assume that Belize, and the Sarstoon, was once inside Guatemala’s domain? We’ll let you think about that one.