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Nov 7, 2017

Will Cabinet Pre-Empt Senate on Maritime Areas Amendment?

Wilfred Elrington

The Opposition People’s United Party announced a week ago tonight that it had filed a motion in the Senate to allow for debate on amending the Maritime Areas Act of 1992. That motion will be officially announced at the next meeting of the Senate by the lead P.U.P. Senator, Eamon Courtenay.  The goal is to reclaim Belize’s full maritime territory; currently nine miles of a twelve-mile area remain in the open after the government, back in 1992, made accommodations to Guatemala in expectation of a settlement of the unfounded territorial claim on Belize.  In early January, the Prime Minister had said that the law will be amended, following the breakdown of communications with Guatemala.  Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington confirmed that Cabinet had discussed the matter, but he also made reference to a document containing legal advice on making the amendment dating back to 2001, when the P.U.P. were in office. Elrington once again questioned why it was that the P.U.P. did nothing at that time.

 

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs

“The Senate is late. If you listened to a program which I did on KREM earlier this year, you would have seen that I had advised KREM that in fact, Cabinet had taken a decision to deal with the matter; so that it is a matter for Cabinet to deal with and I had said that we had taken a decision to deal with the matter. But dealing with these matters, one has to be very conscious of the time and the circumstances because of the effect that it can have. So basically, the Government of Belize, the Cabinet, had taken a decision to deal with it legislatively as early as April or maybe before that.”

 

Reporter

“So when will this take place, should the Senate push not go through? Because as far as we are aware it’s urgent; it has to happen.”

 

Wilfred Elrington

“I don’t know how it is suddenly so urgent; as I am telling you this was an advice ginve in 2001, 2002.”

 

Aaron Humes

“Perhaps because of the Guatemalan referendum?”

 

Wilfred Elrington

“I don’t know what makes it so urgent now. But rest assured, the nation needs to understand that this is a matter that we are seized of, which we dealt with earlier this year. So it’s not a matter that we are not aware of, and not dealing with it. We are in fact dealing with it as any responsible government should do.  When I heard that an initiative was going to be made to bring the matter in the Senate, to have it amended, I caused for my staff to look for the original advice, because I was told that it was based on legal advice. I had never seen the legal advice and no legal advice was in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We had to inquire about its existence and a copy was furnished to our office last week by Ambassador Assad Shoman. it turns out that that legal advice was given to the Government from about 2001, 2002. Now, I cannot understand for the life of me why it was that nobody did anything about it. Because in 2001the People’s United Party government was in office – from 1998 to 2008 – and they had the information. I’m told that Mr. Courtenay was at one time a foreign minister, he had the information. Said Musa had the information. Why wasn’t anything done about it between 1998 and 2008?”

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