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Nov 7, 2017

Parties Trade Fault, But P.U.P. Will Go Ahead with Senate Motion

Eamon Courtenay

It was a rare moment at the Supreme Court this morning: Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington giving the press an interview on issues related to Guatemala, with former Foreign Minister, Senator Eamon Courtenay, appearing to listen keenly in the background.  And he surprised the press by going to the Guatemala issue first rather than his just completed C.C.J. case.  Courtenay wanted immediately to respond first of all to the revelation of the legal advice on amending the Maritime Areas Act.  He clarified that in both 1991 and 2001, the P.U.P. were hoping to reach a negotiated settlement on the claim.  It was when the U.D.P. under Dean Barrow returned to office in 2008 that negotiation was officially declared a lost cause and the march toward the International Court of Justice began. Courtenay said that fault lay squarely with the current administration for not rectifying the matter but acknowledged that whoever was in power should have dealt with the issue long ago.

 

Eamon Courtenay, Former Foreign Minister

“He also accused us of grandstanding; I will go on record to accuse him of one, dereliction of duty; secondly, ignorance of history; thirdly, a lack of understanding of the intricacies of this process. The Belizean people must understand that the Maritime Areas Act was passed in order to try to arrive at a negotiated settlement of this dispute. It included in it a provision where we did not claim all our territorial sea and exclusive economic zone from Sarstoon to Ranguana, to allow an agreement, if possible, to be reached and to be approved by the people. it is from then, 1991, that the legal advisor said if no negotiated settlement is achieved, you need to make the full declaration of your territorial rights and your exclusive economic zone, so it goes back to 1991. What Mr. Elrington apparently either does not understand, or understands and is misleading the Belizean people about, is when is it that Belize and Guatemala agreed that no negotiated settlement was possible. That was in December, 2008, when Wilfred Peter Elrington, as Foreign Minister of Belize, signed the Special Agreement saying we should go to court. The People’s United Party was not in government, in 2008, when the decision was taken by the parties that the matter would go to court if the people approved it in a referendum. And therefore the condition for the removal of the provision in the Maritime Areas Act didn’t come up until he signed that agreement. Since 2008, just under nine years ago, Mr. Elrington had a duty and an obligation to ensure consistent with eh legal advice that we received, that the Maritime Areas Act be amended; he has not done it. He has failed to discharge his duty.”

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