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Apr 11, 2019

Introducing the Belize (Territorial Dispute) Referendum Bill, 2019

In what is expected to be a critical Sitting of the House of Representative on Friday, the Barrow administration is proposing to table the Belize Territorial Dispute Referendum Bill, 2019. The portion of the bill was leaked to the media on Wednesday night and this morning the Opposition People’s United Party received the complete document. The bill sets out the legal pathway for the Government to proceed with the referendum. According to the bill, the Prime Minister “shall, in writing, request that the Governor-General issue a Writ of Referendum in accordance with section five”. The Governor General then “shall, within five days of receiving a request under” issue a Writ of Referendum to the returning officers of the electoral divisions of Belize. The date for the holding of the referendum will be appointed so the electorate can decide whether the dispute shall be submitted to the I.C.J. for final determination. This afternoon the People’s United Party held its parliamentary caucus ahead of Friday’s House Sitting to discuss the proposed bill. Leader John Briceño questioned the government’s rush to pass a new referendum bill.

 

John Briceño

John Briceño, Leader, People’s United Party

“I find it incredible that the Government will attempt to pass a new bill, a new act, a new referendum act when we already have one. I think that by simply using the present act a lot of what we were asking for could have been addressed. And more so that we just got it this morning. To add salt to injury, that tomorrow it seems that the government is going to through all three stages. We believe that it is a disrespect to the Opposition simply because it will not give us an opportunity of not only debate the bill, but also to make some constructive recommendations in how we can improve this. For instance, I think it is almost obscene the haste that this act will give the Prime Minister in calling a referendum. He will send a letter to the Governor General and within five days the Governor General will answer. The Governor General can give a minimum of ten days. Before it was thirty, now it is reducing to ten days and you ask yourself why? Why the undue haste? What’s the hurry? Why is it that the government believes that they have to hold this referendum so quickly especially when we still believe that there are so many concerns in the minds of the Belizeans people, so many unanswered questions, almost a sense of fear in people’s mind as to what is it that is going to happen, why is it that we are going to do. Also to take into consideration that this matter is still before the courts so I think the best thing that the government can do is to take a time out.”


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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