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Dec 20, 2017

What happens if it’s a ‘no’?

Eamon Courtenay

Following debate in the Senate a week ago, Senator Courtenay was slightly dismissive of Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte’s stated concern that Belize was jumping the gun in terms of allowing negotiations to play out. But today he offered a more measured response as to what could happen if either country says no at referendum time and the current version of the Maritime Areas Act remains in effect. Courtenay also refuted Minister Elrington’s altering of historical facts concerning the timeline of negotiations between 1993 and 2008, when the Special Agreement was signed and the road to the I.C.J. began. In February of 2009, Elrington’s own boss, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, affirmed that the formal declaration of failed negotiations by the Organization of American States triggered the decision on the Special Agreement, which started under the P.U.P. and was finished by the U.D.P.

 

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“Let’s look at the scenario in negotiations Guatemala will recognize Belize as an independent country, the Maritime Areas Act was passed to provide for this scope of negotiations. Down south that has been there, since 1991, 1992 when Maritime Areas Act came into force. The PUPS positions this, we have decided that if we go to referendum and the people agree we go to I.C.J. if either party says no, we can’t go the I.C.J. The question that Peyrefitte is asking is then what happens. Well, you can resume negotiations if you want or we can continue to live the way we are living right now. Our position is that let us amend the Maritime Areas Act to claim what we are entitled to under international law. So that in the event that the people of Belize vote no anytime after 2019 that negotiation start again, that is off the table. It is no longer open to anybody to negotiate some settlements in the area between the Sarstoon and Ranguana. We are saying that we should take it off the table now. Take it off the table. If the referendum fail and negotiations start again, we have to negotiate about something else. That is no longer on the table, leaving it there means that some future government can come and say well as a part of a negotiated settlement we have reached some sort of agreement down in the Sarstoon. We say hell no, that is ours we have an opportunity for over 30 years to try and come up with something there. Guatemala rejected everything, well that’s it we are withdrawing that, that is no longer on the table. Statement by the Honorable Prime Minister of Belize, I will leave it with you. Mr. Barrow chronicles what happened from the 1990s up until 2007. He says in 2008 when they came to office they inherited the decision that negotiations were at an end and so they moved. The U.D.P. Wilfred Elrington signed the special agreement saying here is exactly what we have said, is exactly what the lawyers have said. It was not until 2007 when Secretary General of the O.A.S. said that negotiations failed. You all have to resolve this I.C.J. or arbitration both countries opted for the I.C.J. When Mr., Elrington in 2007 we negotiated at length, I was involved in that with Assad, Gibson and all of these guys, Alexi Rosado back and forth over what the special agreement should look like and it was not until the U.D.P. came to power that the final text was concluded and was signed. My point is very simple; there were many, many, many meetings negotiation efforts, facilitators proposals between 1993 and 2007 when everybody agreed negotiations are at an end and the advise is consistent, When you reach the point that there are no further negotiations, amend the law to make it clear that you are going to have this judicially determined. Take what Belize is entitled to. That is the responsibility of Wilfred Peter Elrington and like everything else like he does, he has failed to do it.”

 

Courtenay also predicted that the U.D.P. would produce its own similar amendment next year.

 

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