As a born Belizean and unable to meet the two months residency requirements like many in the diaspora, I will not be able to register to vote in time for the ICJ Referendum. Additionally, no accommodations will be made for the diaspora to vote in the countries they reside. The people who are able to vote are Belizeans living in Belize, the diaspora members who have decided to ignore the two month residency laws, Guatemalans and CARICOM citizens currently residing in Belize.
The ICJ Referendum is the most important vote in the history of any Belizean citizen and one should not ignore that the votes of tens of thousands of Belizeans worldwide, many of whom do not have any other citizenship, are being suppressed. Voter suppression is a political strategy used to discourage or prevent a group from voting hoping to influence the outcome of elections. It is offensive and a human rights violation and should offend the conscience of all Belizeans and I know some people are rolling their eyes and don’t care about the diaspora’s involvement, but even if you want to argue away the rights of the diaspora Belizeans, have Belizeans at home truly examined what a YES to the ICJ vote means?
There are many issues with this referendum. From a moral standpoint the sovereignty inheritance title argument is a stamp of approval for colonialism, genocide and displacement of millions of indigenous and African people. Two former colonized nations are arguing about the sovereignty of their colonial masters and willing to go before a European Court to justify the behaviors of European criminal and human rights violations. If you are a Maya, who recently had the courts recognize indigenous rights, how can you vote YES to this colonial undertaking? The Maya and other indigenous races were murdered in the millions, their homes destroyed and then Europe under the auspices of the Church simply took the land and claimed sovereignty over it. Belize and Guatemala disagree who inherited that right. The people of African descent, were forcibly brought to work the lands; were kidnapped, enslaved, endured harsh abusive conditions and many times murdered. A yes vote endorses colonial and European criminality and right to sovereignty.
Belize and Guatemala agreement to take the ICJ route is a failure of both countries to evolve from their colonial beginnings. I recently participated in a DNA test and I believe my DNA painted a picture of being a Belizean. My results revealed African, European, Indigenous, Asian, Spanish, Arabian and Indonesian heritage. My DNA results suggest migrating groups in the region, many came over as enslaved, displaced or invading groups. Belize has not examined our history or charted a path to undo the oppressive and debilitating effects of colonialism which is still evident today. Currently 14 Caribbean countries including Belize are suing the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and nine other European countries for repatriations due to the Atlantic Slave Trade. How does Belize justify going to the ICJ and argue title based on colonial sovereignty and then sue the colonial nations for displacement and colonialism? There is no moral alignment in arguing title based on sovereignty and then suing Europe for their criminal acts of asserting sovereignty in the region.
For the people who are willing to dismiss the moral duplicity of Belize’s position and prefer to argue legality based on modern law then there are issues with the legality of this process. Belize is a small nation and against all odds and with help of our colonial bully master, we were able to carve out a nation of Belize with agreed borders with Mexico and Guatemala. The borders were further enshrined in the Belize Constitution which defines Belize’s borders, defines who is a citizen; defines fundamental rights and the Constitution IS the Supreme Law of Belize. However with the swipe of the pen of one man, the borders of Belize and sovereignty are being put up for question without the pre-approval of the people or the people’s representatives. The Foreign Minister felt no obligation to take the matter beyond cabinet and cabinet saw no obligation to present the proposal to the House of Representatives for scrutiny. They instead sent it to a then cabinet majority appointed Senate for ratification. Today we are being asked to vote yes to a referendum that would empower a foreign court to amend our borders already enshrined in the Constitution ignoring the Constitution’s formal procedures to amend.
According to the Belize Constitution the government needs ¾ majority of the House of Representatives to amend These safeguards are put in place so that important and fundamental rights are not weakened by ambitious men with unchecked power. These roadblocks are there so that elected officials who are answerable to the voting population must consider their actions before they trample on the rights of Belizeans.
Furthermore, a senate inquiry in 2017 into the Belize Immigration scandal revealed that Guatemalans could not renounce their citizenship and Belize could not grant citizenship without a formal renunciation. The Prime Minister of Belize in 2018 acknowledged that this presented a “catch 22” as many Guatemalans (approximately 30 thousand) were given citizenship paperwork without constitutional authority. Belize Citizens Abroad sought out legal help, raised the issue with the Department of Immigration, Elections and Boundaries and the Office of the Prime Minister and was afforded a meeting with the Prime Minister. The efforts did not stop the registering of Guatemalans to vote nor did it stop the United Democratic Party from endorsing a born Guatemalan to run on their general election ticket. The government of Belize has shamelessly and with extreme shortsightedness turned a blind eye to the Constitution of Belize and rule of law. The very document that defines our identity as Belizeans.
So I present the following questions to my Belizean readers – How can you morally and with a conscience for right and wrong support this ICJ yes push? How can you support it from a procedural and legal standpoint?
I remain NO until Belize gets it right!