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Jul 13, 2004

Opposition Leader backs compromise on C.C.J.

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It may be the first time in Belize’s political history that there has been any suspense over a vote in the House of Representatives. With the Government in need of Opposition support to pass a constitutional amendment to establish the Caribbean Court of Justice, the name of the game is “Let’s make a deal.” Amid reports that the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition have reached a compromise on a set of reforms Government must enact in exchange for U.D.P. support on the C.C.J. amendment, we spoke this afternoon to United Democratic Party Leader Dean Barrow.

Dean Barrow, Leader of the Opposition

?It?s the first time the government needs to do a constitutional amendment where the vote of the opposition is clearly, absolutely required. So, I?ve not experienced anything like this before myself.?

Stewart Krohn, Reporter

?When you went into the exercise did you kind of rubbed your hands together and say this is our opportunity to really kick some butt here??

Dean Barrow

?Let me tell you the truth, I personally am no great enthusiast of the Caribbean Court of Justice and I think that?s the sense I have with respect to the party generally. In other words for me, I could take it or leave it. I think the Privy Council does a good job, while to some extent I am a supporter regionalism. There are various reasons why I am not as I said too enthusiastic about the C.C.J. But when it became clear that government needed to pass this constitutional amendment and spoke to us about the possibility of support, all I wanted to ensure was that the party gave the request mature consideration. I certainly didn?t see it as a kind of make or break issue.?

Basically where things have reached in terms of discussion I had with the Prime Minister and the Attorney General, except for some details, I personally feel that I can support the compromise that?s being suggested. But I am not prepared to spend any great political capital in trying to bring the party along. In other words it?s going to be a completely free vote. I am satisfied that so far the exercise has been one of maturity. I am satisfied that people were prepared to look at the thing with a basically open mind saying only that, well let?s tie it to this notion of local reform.

Barrow declined to offer details of the proposed compromise, but it is believed to involve several pieces of legislation to increase transparency in government, particularly in the areas of loan approvals and the disposal of public assets. Barrow will meet on Wednesday with the U.D.P. Central Party Council. This leaves very little time for further negotiations if the amendment is to be introduced at Friday’s sitting of the House.

And while sitting down with the Opposition Leader, we could not help but ask him to assess his party’s fortunes after sixteen months out of power.

Dean Barrow

?We have a great deal of re-organisational work still to go. I feel that in terms of popular opinion, the government clearly is experiencing some difficulties, but I wouldn?t lie we are not in a position as of now to take anything like serious advantage of that because we have not yet been able to get our own house in order. There are very many areas, especially in the districts and in more than two constituencies in the city where we are sill leaderless and what we are trying to do is to avoid, what I thought were some of the mistakes we made last time around when we were trying to climb back up from a shattering defeat, and that is I think we went perhaps too early in terms of trying to identify persons as potential candidates for the general election. Because we needed to re-establish viability quickly, we perhaps did not take as much time as we might have to try and ensure the best quality candidates. I think we want to do it a little bit differently this time while being conscious that even though we?re ways off, still you don?t want to loose opportunities. But I think that?s what we are involved in at this juncture so as I said quite honestly the work in progress is very much that and we are nowhere near to where we expect to be in the next year or so.?

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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