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Dec 15, 2016

Senate Ratifies Special Agreement and Protocol; is Referendum Next?

In the Capital, the Senate hosted its final session for 2016 at the National Assembly. It reviewed and passed nine bills brought back from the House and several motions. Of these, the most important are the motions asking for ratification of the Special Agreement between Belize and Guatemala formalizing a potential settlement of the unfounded Guatemalan claim at the International Court of Justice, and the subsequent delinking of the protocol for simultaneous referenda on the I.C.J. question. They had been held in committee since the last Senate meeting on November thirtieth, and all twelve senators met with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington and C.E.O. Lawrence Sylvestre for a private briefing before publicly putting the matter to a vote which went along party lines. Despite the Opposition voting against, the motion passed and the Agreements were ratified. According to Leader of Government Business in the Senate Godwin Hulse, the Agreements formalize the way forward, but the ultimate destination is still to be decided by the electorate.

 

Godwin Hulse

Godwin Hulse, Leader of Government Business

“The question, of course, was whether we should authorize the ratification; that is the main issue, whether we should authorize the ratification. As per the Foreign Minister and his team, and the Government, the consensus is we should approve the ratification of the Special Agreement, and the Protocol thereto. It doesn’t mean that we are doing anything else but ratifying that; and as you all know, and this has to be made clear, that it is not signalling that the Government is going to do anything, more than getting all its ducks in order, so that if and when we go to a referendum, we will have passed this stage already. This question will be decided in both countries by the people – and that is a given; it has to be decided by the people. What it does, however, is signal, as I understand it, to our friends, who are funding a lot of this because we don’t have the resources, that in fact, we are at this stage and that we are committed to moving forward; the next stage, of course, would be for the National Assembly to pass a resolution to hold the referendum, and when that is held, if the people of Belize decide yes, then we file those notices with the I.C.J., but we are still a ways away from that.”

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