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Dec 20, 2017

It’s Eamon vs Sedi over Maritime Areas Act; gloves are off!

On Tuesday night we brought you Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington’s broadside against Senator and former Foreign Minister Eamon Courtenay. Not only does he disagree with the proposition to immediately amend the Maritime Areas Act to restore Belize’s full portion of territorial sea and other entitlements in the south, he attacked Courtenay as seeking personal glory and ambition – and his job. Courtenay promised a response full of fireworks today, and this morning he delivered, big time. News Five’s Aaron Humes reports.


Aaron Humes, Reporting

Wilfred Elrington and Eamon Courtenay are linked not only by their careers and national influence, but also by a mutually antagonistic rivalry not unlike heavyweight boxers.


Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs (File: December 20, 2017)

Wilfred Elrington

“And you know, there is nothing that he wants more than to become Foreign Minister. He’s desperately desirous of taking this position, and has been so for some years. So, you have to watch his motives. You can’t assume that he has the most honest of motives. You have to watch his motives because really and truly, he wants this job, and he’s impatient.”


Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, P.U.P. Senator

“When I listened to the incoherent rant of Wilfred Elrington last night, at one point I started to feel sorry for him; but I realize that it is not sympathy he needs, because that won’t help. We have a major problem in this country – Wilfred Elrington is the Foreign Minister of Belize. He is not a fool; he is dishonest. He is a pathological liar. He clearly operates in a parallel universe. He seeks to rewrite history. But we in the P.U.P. will not allow him to get away with it.”


Their quarrel is over the Maritime Areas Act, first introduced in 1992, which limits, subject to final determination following a national referendum, the territorial sea from the mouth of Sarstoon River to Ranguana Caye to provide a framework for the negotiation of a definitive agreement on territorial differences with the Republic of Guatemala. Everyone seems to agree that restoring the original provisions is the right thing to do, but Courtenay and Elrington differ on when and for what reasons.


Wilfred Elrington (File: December 20, 2017)

“If in fact now, we were to take the position that we want to be – the Guatemalans could get some more, well, you couldn’t complain, because in 1993, you agreed to limit your claim to three miles. That should never have been done, but it was done. The fact that you now want to change it, to my mind, will not erase the damage that was done in 1993.”

Eamon Courtenay

“Who is Wilfred Elrington representing? Who is he serving? I make no apology, the People’s United Party makes no apology for insisting that at the soonest possible time, the Maritime Areas Act should be amended, and if Wilfred Elrington wants to continue to bow down, and scrape and hug up and support Guatemala’s position, he can continue to do that. And I will call him out on every occasion and I will oppose him on every occasion.”


Courtenay says that in addition to existing legal opinions, he has personally sought additional scholarship from two critically acclaimed international legal experts – Dr. Phillipa Webb and Amal Clooney – who bolster the established view that amending the Act now, gives Belize a stronger position if it appears before the I.C.J. Regarding the contrary view claimed by Elrington, Courtenay says put up or shut up.


Eamon Courtenay

“This legal advice addresses the following question: would Belize’s position in an I.C.J. claim be strengthened or not if it were to make a declaration claiming as its territorial sea the area from the mouth of the Sarstoon to Ranguana Caye before the dispute is submitted to the I.C.J.? Which is the area that the Maritime Areas [Act] does not claim what we are entitled to. The short answer to the question is that a legislative amendment, supported by a declaration or exchange of notes, would strengthen Belize’s position in an I.C.J. case. It would prove that there is no tacit agreement between Belize and Guatemala to a three nautical mile limit in the area from the mouth of the Sarstoon to Ranguana Caye, and it would rebut any argument regarding estoppel  or a unilateral undertaking. No international lawyer should be advising us on  the consequence of any diplomatic mater with Guatemala; that is not their brief. They are to advise us on the claim and the legal position in our claim. If lawyers in London are telling Mr. Elrington, ‘Don’t amend the Maritime Areas Act now, because it will upset Guatemala,’ those lawyers need to be fired, and fired immediately. I challenge Wilfred Elrington to present to the Belizean people any legal advice he has received from lawyers who are telling him that he should not do this now because it is going to have a negative consequence in Guatemala. That is not an international lawyer that we want on our side.”


And as to whether Courtenay wants the Foreign Minister’s job – we’ll let him answer for himself.


Eamon Courtenay

“He talks about me want his job? First of all, been there, done that! Secondly, he ought to resign.”


Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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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