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Oct 31, 2017

P.U.P. Takes Lead on Amending Maritime Areas Act

In an extraordinary move, the Opposition People’s United Party today announced plans to table a motion for debate at the next sitting of the Senate to amend the Maritime Areas Act. It is the first time in recorded memory that the Opposition is taking the lead on introducing an amendment, and doing so in the upper chamber rather than the lower where all bills are normally introduced. Now, at the time of the debate last December over amendment to the Referendum Act and ratification of the Special Agreement and Protocol on a referendum on settlement of the unfounded Guatemalan claim at the International Court of Justice, Prime Minister Dean Barrow indicated that Belize would at some point amend the Act to reclaim its full maritime territory, especially in the South. Introduced in 1992 after Guatemalan President Jorge Serrano recognized Belize, the Act made accommodations to that territory in expectation of a settlement of the claim. But political circumstances in both countries changed, and after the United Democratic Party healed its split with the late Philip Goldson and National Alliance for Belizean Rights, it had pledged to repeal the Act, but never did. Lead Opposition Senator Eamon Courtenay today detailed the reasons for the move now.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“In terms of context, the party leader, Honorable John Briceño had sometime in the past called for the amendment to the Maritime Areas Act in a debate in the National Assembly.  On another occasion in the National Assembly the former party leader and former prime minister, Honorable Said Musa had done the same thing.  It had fallen on deaf ears.  It is something that we as a party have always thought that it should be done immediately after 2008 when the Special Agreement was signed.  At the last national party council meeting at the end of September of this year, a resolution was passed for us to commence a claim in the Supreme Court seeking a declaration that Sections Three and Seven of the Maritime Areas Act are invalid and have no force of law which is something that we intend to do.  But we also felt that we should move the National Assembly since the government has been sitting down doing nothing on this issue, and so we prepared of the amendment.  We took some advice on the proposed amendment and we sent a letter to the National Assembly on the twentieth of October asking for it to come up at the last senate meeting.  They took the position that the four days notice was not met because we sent it on the twentieth and the meeting was on the twenty-fifth, and so they refused to put the motion on the agenda.  I wrote to the president and said, well if that’s your decision can you assure me that it would be on the next senate meeting since more than four days would have elapsed.  This morning I got a reply from the National Assembly that it will be on the agenda for the next sitting of the senate.  So the procedure will be that the motion will be proposed, seconded, debated and if it is passed then the bill will be introduced as an item for debate at the senate.”

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