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Jan 30, 2017

Senate Approves Central Bank Immunity Bill But Will Belize Be In Trouble with Superbond?

Following the special session of the House of Representatives on Friday, the nation’s upper chamber was convened to further progress the Central Bank of Belize (International Immunities) and Crown Proceedings (Amendment) Bills, 2017.  According to the Government, the new legislation is intended to serve as a firewall, protecting Belize’s assets from the imminent threat of seizure.  The Government has refused to settle two disputed arbitration awards granted to Caribbean Investment Holdings Limited and Belize Social Development Limited, on the basis that local courts have ruled them unlawful, unconstitutional, null and void. But the awards exist, said Senator Eamon Courtenay, and Government had its chance to challenge both the original agreements and the subsequent arbitrations, but it did not. Courtenay says it now leads to a pair of laws that threatens to criminalize him personally and threatens his practice of law. He also notes that under the Superbond Two negotiations, government gave up immunity to the jurisdiction of New York County.


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“Here it is we are passing a law seeking to immunize the reserves. I simply raise a caution to ensure that those same reserves are not caught by Superbond two point oh. I was only able to get this this morning – had we had time to study this, we could have perhaps offered some amendment if it was necessary – we don’t know. But my point is simple: we are rushing into this matter; we need to ensure that it is done properly. The further point I make, is this whole question of lifting immunity and waiving immunity is not a P.U.P. thing, it is not a U.D.P. thing. When you engage in commercial operations and activities, whether you are a Government or not, it is something that is quite often done. However, what is important is that we ensure, as this Bill seeks to do, that insofar as there are assets of the country that can be immune, those should be immune.  If the intention of this legislation is to immunize and we achieve that immunity by the provision of clauses two and three, why it is necessary to go the additional step? If the reserves are immunized and cannot be reached; if we have confidence that the reserves are immunized, why is it necessary to go a further step to allow people to go to prison because they say they disagree? If they are bound to fail, they are bound to fail. I simply say this: we are here today because in my opinion, our interests was not protected; when the day was called for defending Belize’s interests in the arbitration proceedings, no one went and defended Belize.”

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