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Oct 9, 2018

A Rare Occasion: Mutual Cause Unites P.U.P. and B.P.P. against I.C.J. Vote

It is known that there are many in the leadership of the People’s United Party, excluding its leader John Briceño, who are opposed to taking Guatemala’s territorial claim to the International Court of Justice. Because of the divergence of internal views, Briceño’s position has been for a conscious vote. Well earlier today, the Belize Progressive Party and a group of activists surprisingly coalesced with the southern caucus to say ‘NO’ to the I.C.J.  It was a rare undertaking, but it happened in Belmopan on an issue of huge national importance over which Belizeans will vote on April tenth, 2019.  The P.U.P. southern caucus, led by Deputy Leader Mike Espat, was joined by area reps and standard bearers from the west, all who are against taking the territorial claim to the International Court of Justice.   So what’s next for the grouping? News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The coming together of politicians from opposing organizations for a mutual cause, in this case, members of the People’s United Party and the Belize Progressive Party, is a rare occasion.  What unites them, particularly the southern and western caucuses of the P.U.P., is a near-unanimous position against going to the International Court of Justice for a resolution on the territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala.

 

Julius Espat

Julius Espat, Area Representative, Cayo South

“I am a definite no; I have no problem saying that.  I have said it [and] I have been public with that, it’s just that we believe that the people that believe that it should be a no vote should also be given an opportunity to congregate.  We should also be given an opportunity to express our opinion and we are not seeing that.  The yes vote sponsored by the government and all the financiers is definitely for a yes vote and it clouds the no vote position and so we believe that we live in a democratic country and we believe as elected representatives we have a right to be able to sit and speak to any other groups that have similar opinions and so we are exercising that right.”

 

Sitting at that table is Wil Maheia.  Not only is the Deputy Political Leader of the B.P.P. a firebrand, he is also a founding member of the Belize Territorial Volunteers, an activist group known for its staunch position on the Sarstoon River hostility.  The latest nationalist effort is called the Belize Peace Movement.

 

Wil Maheia

Wil Maheia, Deputy Political Leader, B.P.P.

“The Belize Peace Movement is actually a movement with Belizeans who are opposed to going to the I.C.J., to put it simply.  And Belizeans from across the country, it’s not a political movement, it’s a movement of Belizeans who are concerned about the way this country is going right now and right now we are focusing on the I.C.J. and not going to the I.C.J.  But also the peace movement is about what the name says, bringing peace to this country.”

 

The discussion held today brought a cross-section of Belizeans together, forming a unified front against taking the age-old matter before the world court for adjudication, based on what is at stake for the country.  Within the People’s United Party, despite each member being encouraged to vote based on conscience, the issue remains controversial.

 

Louis Zabaneh

Dr. Louis Zabaneh, P.U.P. Standard Bearer, Dangriga

“Our party leader was informed that we would be at this meeting and more power to him.  I think the position that the party has taken which is that we vote our conscience ought to be applauded and I think our party leader has shown to the country that he has these qualities where he respects other people who had different views.  That, I think, ought to be something very positive for our people, but because of how we do politics in Belize, we try to find things that seem to be dividing.”

 

…and there is presently no other subject of concern as divisive as this one, an issue that seems to split the opposition party which is yet to take a formal position on whether or not the country should go to the Hague, following the April 2019 referendum.

 

Mike Espat

Mike Espat, Area Representative, Toledo East

“I can’t force anybody to say yes, none of us.  This is an open election, people will decide what they want to do.  We can only advise, that is all and my advice is no, plain and simple.”

 

Oscar Requeña

Oscar Requeña, Area Representative, Toledo West

“The party met and we had an extensive discussion, I mean coming out of our meetings, out of our national executive meeting, the decision was made that we are going to vote our conscience.  I think it is important to lay that on the table because the party leader has gone on record to say that we are all entitled to our own individual positions and we are making that out.  As leaders, we need to speak to other leaders in this country who I believe share common interest; common issues and I think that is what we are doing today.”

 

Those common interests go beyond party political lines, an awareness that is recognized by Maheia whose political opponent in Toledo West is Mike Espat.

 

Wil Maheia

“He’s a politician, I am considered a politician at times, but at the end of the day we are Belizeans and I think that I have to really respect the Honorable Mike Espat for coming to the meeting and thanking him for coming to the meeting because he has put country above party and that’s kind of like a rare thing for these hardcore politicians to put party above country.  Right now we are putting country above everything and everybody that you see here today, we have different political views but Belize is first and foremost for us.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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