Belizeans were treated to a very special Rise and Shine Morning show this Tuesday morning as retired surveyor Lindsay Belisle made an appearance to explain to Belizeans the history of the Belize Border with Guatemala. He also brought copies of rarely seen photographs, maps and documents that substantiate Belize’s claim to 8867 square miles that is today, Belize. This is how host of Rise and Shine Carlos Santos, who himself worked under Mr Lindsay for a few years, introduced his guest.
Carlos Santos: Lindsay is a certified land surveyor with over 45 years experience with surveying and mapping. He studied in Toronto Canada and London. He’s got a certificate in the demarcation and maintenance of International boundaries from the International Boundary research unit of the University of Derrahm in the UK. He was a member of the Belize-Guatemala boundary team from 1990-2008. He has been technical advisor to the Government of Belize during the Ramfram Rector Facilitation Process 2000, 2002. He was the boundaries and waters commissioner for Belize with Mexico from 97′ to 2008.
According to Belisle, even before the 1859 treaty with Guatemala, Belize already had recognized Borders all the way down to the Sarstoon. He illustrated the point even using Authenticated Mexican maps.
Lindsay Belisle, Surveyor: We have heard a lot of talk about this boundary. Some are true, some are half true, some have no truth at all. We even have some of the people that should be educating us on the boundaries and leading the charge to the ICJ saying that we don’t know where our boundaries are. We have to bring people from outside to find where the boundaries are, so we need to go to the ICJ so they could tell us where the boundaries are so that we could use that to determine our maritime areas. If we have time this morning I want to show you step by step, not only talking, I want to show you the original documents and maps that will prove that we have a defined boundary between Belize and Guatemala.
Carlos Santos: You hear that Belizeans? We have a boundary.
Lindsay Belisle, Surveyor: And that was agreed to and is registered. As far back as 1805, RivaGorda, now known as Sarstoon River was considered by settlers to be the southern boundary of the settlement and it’s source, Gracias Dios Fall as its Western Boundary, so that’s 1805. That’s before Guatemala even became independent. In 1834, we had the meeting of judges and magistrates of the settlement who decided that at the time of the Central American Independence in 1821, that’s when Guatemala and all the countries in Central America got Independence from Spain as a unit, that the boundaries of Belize was north by the Rio Hondo, on the South by the Sarstoon River and on the west by a line running due north to Rio Hondo. So that’s 1834. In 1839 Guatemala got its independence after The United Proveniences of Central America was dissolved, and claimed sovereignty over Belize in 1839 after Belize had already defined its boundaries before they got independence. So we need to look at these issues right. Well that was rejected by the British, as Spain or any Central American State had ever occupied territory, also in clause 1 of the Mexico Guatemala treaty Guatemala had to denounce ownership of Ciapas. Then in 1840, the United Kingdom declares that the law of England is and shall be the law of the settlement of the colony of British Honduras. That’s under what they call the theory of doctrine of reception of law. That is saying that once a country occupies or possesses a territory, they bring their laws to the territory, we have never had Guatemala or Spanish laws in Belize. We have always had British laws. Then in 1850, the Clayton Bullra Treaty acknowledge the legitimacy of the colony of British Honduras again. In 1859 Guatemala agreed that there’s a boundary between Belize and Guatemala so her earlier claim died, because now she can’t claim because they agreed on the boundaries. So that claim for Belize has died.
Belisle then spoke about the marking of the southern boundary of Belize by the British and Guatemalans. He says that there was no dispute that the 168 acre Sarstoon island belongs to Belize.
Lindsay Belisle, Surveyor: Captain Ray was appointed the commissioner for the UK and Colonel Manuel Madrazo for Guatemala. They met at the Sarstoon in 1860, they went and examined the banks and actually Gracias as Dios Falls is about 900 yards upstream from a branch, I will show you the Sarstoon branches at a point to Chocon and Gracias a Dios. So there they placed limestone pyramids at the point that they selected. They did that same activity in January 186, visited Garbutt Falls and placed again limestone pyramids at that point. If we look, we have the map that was prepared according to the treaty. This map was a result of the demarcation activities, and it was certified by the Guatemalan and British Commissioner captain ray for Britain and Manuel Madrazo, and you see that map has the coordinates that they say the latitude and longitude at the points them. But more importantly, we want to show that they agreed that the Sarstoon island belongs to Belize. The red line passes south of the Sarstoon Island, that was agreed from 1860 in accordance to the treaty, and this is an official map. If we go to the ICJ these are the maps we have to take to prove we have the Sarstoon Island. This is a map. Very few people in Belize has seen this map. This is a map attached to the Mexico Great Britain Treaty of 1893. An official map. If you look you’ll see the seals there and it shows the whole of British Honduras and all the information that was there on the earlier map and other information. Now I want to zoom in on the Sarstoon Island again. If you notice that all the areas in red belongs to Britain and if you notice the Sarstoon Island it’s in red, so again the map shows that the Sarstoon Island is ours. And that again is an official map that needs to go to the ICJ. This is one of the directory overseas survey map showing the Sarstoon Island and the boundary South. And it says the only island in the river is situated near the mouth of the river and the survey shows that the current passes through the South of the Island, and in accordance to article 6 of the treaty, the island belongs to her majesty. Even google map has it right but the Guatemalans can’t get it right. So we have seen that all the maps showing the Sarstoon island belonging to Belize. The source of the Sarstoon ends here, and then it branches into Rio Chocon and Rio Gracias a Dios. 900 yards up Rio Gracias a Dios, there is Gracias a Dios Falls, and that is where they set the limestones to mark the boundary. They have agreed to sign on to that. I will even show you better. If you go up Sarstoon River, this is where Sarstoon River Branches go and along here, Gracias a Dios River, and then the other side Rio Chocon. These are the rapids at Gracias a Dios, 900 yards. So it’s hard not to find where our borders are.
Lindsay Belisle, Surveyor: We have to be careful when going to the ICJ, we cannot go for any and everything, the point of departure has to be the 1859 treaty, we cannot go behind that, can’t throw that away all efforts that were made over the years by our ancestors, by our fore fathers, by the British, by our local people going to the UN in 1 2 3 4 declarations, recognizing the territorial integrity of Belize. You will throw that out the window and go and tell Guatemala take what you want? That is like writing a blank cheque to somebody who wants all your little savings you have made over the years. You know what they’ll do to you? Take you to the cleaners.
We will have more excerpts from that interview in Tomorrow’s newscast or… you can watch the repeat of the Rise and Shine morning Show right here on PlusTV.