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Jun 27, 2001

Opposition: Musa signed & ratified treaty in secret

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The press conference was called to discuss a matter of importance to our national sovereignty and leader of the Opposition Dean Barrow displayed the kind of righteous political indignation that has become his trademark. Prime Minister Said Musa, according to Barrow, had lied to the nation by signing and ratifying a controversial treaty with the Unites States… without the benefit of public consultation.

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

“I put a question to the Prime Minister in the House about the signing of the treaty. I particularly asked in that question for a date to be given when the treaty had been signed by Belize. I asked whether government intended to circulate the treaty to the Belizean public, and what the time frame was for bringing the implementing legislation for the treaty to the House. The Prime Minister’s answer to me was, “Belize signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States on the nineteenth of September 2000. This treaty applies only to crime matters and does not cover civil or administrative matters. This treaty has not yet come into force as the implementing legislation is yet to be enacted. We hope that a bill to give effect to the treaty will be introduced in the next practicable sitting of the House.” What the Prime Minister did not say, but what we discovered in the course of a recent court case, is that not only had he signed the treaty on the nineteenth of September, but by the time Ms. Curiel let the cat out of the bag, in the interview with Jules Vasquez, the Prime Minister had as well ratified the treaty.

Now ladies and gentlemen, it’s one thing to sign a treaty, but the treaty doesn’t actually come into effect until it has been ratified. Let me pause there to say this, certainly in the U.K., from which we derived our system of governance and our jurisprudence, the executive is empowered to sign treaties, but the ratification of treaties must be done by parliament. Our constitution is silent on that and when they are here talking about constitutional reform, that certain one of the reforms they ought to do. Because what happened in this case is that the Prime Minister again took it upon himself to ratify the treaty without consultation with the House, without consultation with the public. So that when he answered me in March, he did not tell me that on the eighth day of January 2001, he signed the instrument of ratification for this treaty.”

As for the merits of the treaty itself, Barrow says that it leaves much to be desired.

Dean Barrow

“What they’re saying, is that if you are a Belizean, you have all your assets here, but you go up to the States or you’re visiting or you’re living there temporarily, but you’ve sent money home and they pick you up over there and they say that they are conducting an investigation into criminal offences, they can say, under the treaty, to the government here, seize this person’s assets. Go into the bank and tell the bank that this person or anybody authorised by him can have no power any more over his own monies, his own properties. Seize his house, seize any farm, any land that he might have, seize any vehicle, any vessel. And that will extend to Belizeans being investigated in the States, as well as to Americans being investigated in the States, who might have assets in this country.

To sign and ratify in absolute secrecy and thereafter to lie to the public, so that they might not know what the contents of the treaty that the Prime Minister ratified are, seems to us to be the kind of actions that all right thinking persons in this society must unequivocally condemn.”

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