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Jul 8, 2004

Gov’t will need Opposition support on C.C.J.

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When the House of Representatives meets on July sixteenth, there will be a departure from the usual parliamentary practice of the Opposition having its say with the Government getting its way. The reason is that in order to replace the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice it will be necessary to amend the constitution…and to amend the constitution requires a majority of three-quarters of the House, or twenty-two votes. Unfortunately for the P.U.P. Government, they only have twenty-one. That means that without the support of the U.D.P. or at least a single defection, the C.C.J. amendment will die. In today’s Guardian the Opposition outlined its strategy, listing a number of demands that must be met in exchange for the party’s support. Among them are constitutional limits on public debt, publication of various government contracts, including those with Belize Printing, B.T.L., Intelco, Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise lines, and various parliamentary reforms–a pretty long wish list.

Now, in the U.S. system of government this practice of trading votes is called logrolling. In Belize we’re yet to coin an appropriate phrase, but we suspect the ruling party could come up with a few less flattering terms. Today I spoke to attorney General Eamon Courtney who has been among those politicians trying to strike a compromise.

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney General

?[We are] engaged in a discussion with the United Democratic Party, the opposition across the two political parties. A meeting was held last Friday in which they presented what I would describe as conditions for them to support the Caribbean Court of Justice Amendment Bill, which is before the House of Representatives. It?s a bit difficult to fully appreciate the position of the United Democratic Party since its leader has written a letter to Prime Minister Musa saying that the U.D.P. supports the C.C.J., but they now have conditions which are to be met before they vote yes in support of the bill.?

Janelle Chanona

?Does the Government see that as political blackmail??

Eamon Courtenay

?Well, I think it?s quite obvious what it is. The United Democratic Party believes that unless they can get what they want, they will not vote in favour of the bill. That seems to me to be sacrificing the national interest to partisan political demands and interests, and I think that the Belizean people can see that. I remain hopeful that between now and next week Friday, when the debate is schedule to take place, that the U.D.P. will hopefully adjust its position and rise to the occasion and treat the amendment to the constitution as a national issue rather than just a party political issue.?

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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