July 09, 2008


CARICOM or Guatemala

“Man, proud man
Dress’d in a little brief authority
Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d
His glassy essence – like an angry ape
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep.”
—William Shakespeare

I prefer the Jamaican creole patois version of the above, which goes as follows:

“Likkle men wid brief authority
Beat dem likkle puny chests to the sky
Whilst di angels dem haffi cry.”

As the Opposition during the last administration, the present government voted against Belize signing on to the CCJ (Caribbean Court of Justice) at a vote taken in the National Assembly. Following the recent visit and seminar given by the Justices of the CCJ, the present government, in the person of the Attorney General are now saying they are willing to “revisit” their previous stance on the CCJ. We’ll see.

“During the past few years, the people of British Honduras have begun to realize that they are the victims of a monstrous conspiracy to deprive them of their country.” –Hon. Philip S.W. Goldson,
United Nations, New York, 30 August 1967

“ The time to save your country, is before you lose it.” —Hon. Philip S.W. Goldson

In the mean time, the life-sized bust of this Belizean patriot, tireless benefactor, and national hero is allowed to sit languishing on the muddy roadside along the Northern Highway. The attitude seems to be that if you ignore it, and its messenger (the sculptor), somehow the message will likewise be ignored, maybe even go away. We’ll see.

It is sometimes said that one’s attitude will determine one’s altitude. However the converse is also true. Altitude can determine attitude. Pilots learn very early in flight school that adequate altitude is the aircraft’s life blood. Fly low and the engine fails, no chance for recovery, gravity quickly determines the aircraft’s attitude, nose dive, spin, crash and burn. On the other hand, fly high enough, the engine fails, there is room for recovery, maintain a nose up attitude, glide, find a landing area, land, survive.

So, just as choosing an adequate flight level (altitude) is important for survival in an aircraft….similarly choosing and maintaining a high standard of association is important for survival as a people and as a country.

CARICOM, and its two main organs - the CSME ( Caribbean Single Market and Economy), and the CCJ, I venture to say, do not need Belize half as much as Belize needs them. For Belizeans of the Caribbean diaspora, it may just be our last chance of survival as a people. I am again reminded of the statement Derek Walcott from St. Lucia made on receiving his Nobel Prize in Literature....” That a day may come when people may ask not only what became of our shores and bays, but of a whole people.”

Currently CARICOM has fifteen (15) full members - Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago. There are five(5) associate members - Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Turks & Caicos Islands. There are seven observers - Aruba, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico, Venezuela.

The entire population of the fifteen full members is approximately 15 million. The associate members number about 154,000, and observer countries 290 million.

At the last census July 2007, the population of Guatemala was around 13 million.

There is a CARICOM Common Passport which is aimed at making intra-regional and international travel much easier for CARICOM citizens. As of late 2007, ten member states have already introduced the CARICOM passport. Unfortunately, we have been fed negative attitudes, and imagined obstacles to the Caribbean integration process – “distances too large,” “lack of transportation,” “lack of market access.”

We had intra-regional economic, educational, cultural, sport, and every other exchange with the Caribbean long before container ships, airplanes, and, of course, the Internet. CARICOM detractors, and our enemies fuel the negativity. Meantime the illegal immigration and illegal citizenship continue unabated, changing our demographic landscape.

“No person shall be entitled under provisions of this Chapter to be a citizen of Belize or be granted citizenship of Belize if such person shows any allegiance to or is a citizen of a country which does not recognize the Independence, sovereignty, or territorial integrity of Belize”

—Constitution of Belize Chapter III 29 (3)

CARICOM, the CSME, and the CCJ are a work in progress headed in the right direction, especially for Belize, a nation of 300,000 people, a large portion of which are citizens of a retrograde country which has long since, and still does not recognize our right to survive independent, sovereign, and with territory intact.

October 18, 1999 - Foreign Minister of Guatemala, Eduardo Stein, in a long note to the then Prime Minister of Belize, wrote that all the territory between the Sibun and Sarstoon Rivers must be “returned”to Guatemala, together with all the cayes, except St. George’s Caye,…additionally declaring Guatemala’s non-recognition of our borders as laid down in the 1859 Boundary Treaty.

April 29, 1987 at a ministerial meeting in Miami, Guatemala demanded that Belize cede the Toledo District and the Ranguana and Sapodilla Cayes, and British compensation totaling one hundred million pounds sterling as the price of settlement. One must note today the recent land disputes in the Toledo District with considerable interest and concern, if not suspicion.

So, we in Belize, especially those of the Caribbean diaspora, have a sacred responsibility to embrace CARICOM, the CSME, and the CCJ, and to do all in our power to make it work. If it means encouraging government to subsidize a small airline to link us with Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, thus eliminating the need for travel through Miami, the associated costs, and US transit visa requirement, then begin thinking about it. If you think it, you will do it.

May seem a small step, but will be the opening of the gateway, that elusive bridge that our fellow CARICOM citizens and ourselves will use to enhance the integration process, encourage freedom of movement, drive market access, nurture cultural exchanges, grow the tourism product, revive sports through serious competition, renew educational opportunities, maintain military and security support, sharing all the other aspects of life in the Caribbean Community.

“One Love. One Heart. Let’s get together and feel alright.” —Bob Marley

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