Opposition Will Not Partake in Signing of Special Agreement with Guatemala

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Updated: May 21, 2015

The Opposition, People’s United Party has decided to not be a part of the signing of the amended Special Agreement in Guatemala on Monday, May 25.  Opposition Senator, Lisa Shoman spoke of why her party made the decision.

LISA SHOMAN

“The Leader of the Opposition made it very clear to the Prime Minister that Belizeans would have to be consulted and that a proper reason would have to be given to them why we should consider no longer having simultaneous referendum and to date the only reason we have been told is that this is more convenient to Guatemala and it will help them save costs.”

LOCAL REPORTER

“When you say consultation; that Belizeans should be consulted, what do you mean?”

LISA SHOMAN

“Exactly that, that the government should say to Belizeans that this is the request of the government of Guatemala and should take a reading from people to see if this is something we believe is in Belize’s best advantage. Belizeans have received no explanation other than this is something that Guatemala wants and we have not been told by the government what advantage it would be to Belize for us to deal with the process. For this particular event, we are not in agreement in the way it was carried out and we will not be attending. No doubt the government will tell you that they have the right to act on behalf of Belizeans and if that is their approach, that is their approach. We have always kept, in fact it is the People’s United Party government that started with having a bipartisan approach on that issue and we have kept to that very faithfully but when agreements such as the Special Agreement are going to be entered into and afterwards there are going to be changes and those changes are neither properly consulted with the opposition, nor with the people of Belize.  This is not something that the party felt that as a responsible opposition we could accompany the government in this regard. Because also we have not had any indication from the Government of Belize as to what are the next steps after this. What for instance will happen, ladies and gentlemen of the media, what for instance is going to happen if Guatemala votes no. Will Belize then proceed to have a referendum? What is the effect to the international community? The international community has helped to fund the process all along, funding the OAS office, based on this Special Agreement that was made in 2008 and that Special Agreement was very clear that an integral part of the entire operation was to make sure that both the peoples of Belize and Guatemala were consulted in simultaneous referenda so as not to have the process in one country affect the outcome of the process in the other country.”

 

According to Shoman, the People’s United Party has yet to be furnished with a copy of the proposed amendments.

LISA SHOMAN

“We could very well be in a position where Guatemala either votes yes and we decide not to go ahead or Guatemala votes no and we decide not to go ahead with our referendum and that is not what we’ve told the international community. In fact, that is not what the Special Agreement will be amended to. Mind you, I should say to the media and to Belizeans that the opposition has not been provided with any draft of any amendment to the Special Agreement so we are in the same position of speculating along with you as to what that amendment will be. All we have been told is that it will be amended so that the referenda don’t have to be held on the same day. We are not being told that there will be any amendment that says that if they vote no, we don’t have to go ahead with it. So where does that put us at an advantage?”

LOCAL REPORTER

“What sort of negative effects would you say that would result from this amendment here in Belize apart from the international community?”

LISA SHOMAN

“Until and unless I see the amendment that is contemplated, I couldn’t speak to it. I will definitely be interested to see what amendments are going to be made but as I say to you, as at this point, the opposition has not been provided to date, with any suggested draft of the amendment to this special agreement and I think those are not circumstances in which you can say that is a bipartisan approach. That is not a bipartisan approach.”

LOCAL REPORTER

“So you do not validate the Prime Minister’s rationale that if there is a no vote in Guatemala going ahead, we will not need to have  referendum because the act stipulates that both sides must vote on for us to go to the ICJ?”

LISA SHOMAN

“Hold on, it is not for me to validate or to not validate. What I am saying to you is that we signed an agreement and if we sign an agreement saying we are going to referendum then that is something that must be discussed and thought about  to see what the possible steps are ahead. This amendment or this proposed amendment, as has been reported, because we have not seen it, seems to undo the entire basis upon which we were moving ahead.”

 

The first Special Agreement was signed on December 8, 2008 in Washington DC by Foreign Ministers of Belize and Guatemala at the Organization of American States.