Independence is not as simple as we may consider it to be. Is it absolute? Is it definitive? Or is it a process, and is it conditional, and if so what are those conditions? To the average Belizean mind Belize gained independence on the 21st September 1981 resultantly from a political struggle for self-determination and we have since then been responsible for our nationhood.
What we take for granted is the fact that states can fail, states can be dissolved or even absorbed by other states. States can completely disappear from the international system and be relegated to the annals of history. A few complicated examples across the globe includes Taiwan which was in the United Nations until 1971; Palestine which is recognized by over 135 nations but yet remains under the jurisdiction of Israel; Czechoslovakia which separated in two separate states in 1993; Catalonia which boasted independent status twice but is now under the jurisdiction of Spain just to name a few. And then there are those countries with multiple independence day such as Latvia, Lithuania, Turkey, Philippines, Slovakia, Cameroon amongst others that had to fend for self-determination on multiple occasions.
Belize’s independence in 1981 was contested then, and is contested today in 2021. In September 1981 our independence was not only contested externally by Guatemala, but also the internal political divide that resulted in riots and accusations of treason.
In defence and security context this mandates that the government of Belize be cognizant and responsible for combating threats that are both foreign and domestic, and such is the Coast Guard mission. As a military organization with law enforcement authority, the Belize Coast Guard is charged with both maritime security and naval defence. We deliver a broad range of strategic missions that provides a stable environment for nation building. Governing the vast sea spaces under the jurisdiction of Belize falls squarely within the purview of the Belize Coast Guard and we enthusiastically embrace that responsibility. From deterring transnational and organized crime and interdicting illicit activities to protecting and preserving the marine environment to providing the naval defence of Belize, the Coast Guard contribution to the process of independence is an essential one.
Whilst it took Belize twenty four years after independence to establish its Coast Guard, its maritime defence and security lineage is deeply routed in our history from the Battle of St Georges Caye in 1798 to a defence obligation of the Royal Navy to independent Belize in 1981 and the BDF Maritime Wing in 1983 and the evolution of maritime services resulting in the perfection of a National Coast Guard in 2005.
As Belize continues to strengthen its democracy and develop its institutions, likewise the Coast Guard strives to mirror its advancements and deliver the platform for maritime governance by remaining utrinque paratus.