The National Executive of the People’s United Party met today at Independence Hall on Queen Street in Belize City to review and solidify its position on the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Party Leader, John Briceno had spent the last few months on a national listening tour which led him to the southern and western caucuses which did not hold back their fierce opposition to the ICJ. Before reading a nine-point declaration, the national executive, including two sons of the former Prime Minister Said Musa lined up behind Briceno in support. Musa, the only former PUP Foreign Minister who is currently elected to office, was notably absent. The gist of the declaration is NO, but the PUP also made several demands, including amending the Maritime Areas Act; allowing Belizeans in the diaspora to vote and removing Wilfred Elrington from the Foreign Ministry. After a brief introduction by Party Chairman Henry Charles Usher, the Leader of the Opposition, John Briceno read the 9 points of what they dubbed “The People’s Declaration”.
Leader of the ICJ John Bricenio: “The People’s United Party recalls the Party’s proud history of defending the rights of the Belizean people to self-determination and successfully leading Belize to political independence with all our territory intact as defined by the 1859 Treaty. Deplores Guatemala’s refusal to accept the integrity of the long established Belizean borders and its insistence on maintaining its unfounded claim to Belizean territory. Respects the sacred right of the Belizean people to decide whether or not we should submit the unfounded claim by Guatemala to Belizean territory to the International Court of Justice for final adjudication. Convinced that the Belizean people as a matter of conscience should exercise their right to decide on this issue free from fear mongering and on the basis of informed consent, which can only be achieved after an open, balanced and comprehensive education campaign. Strongly Condemns the mismanagement of Belize – Guatemala relations by the Barrow Administration and the continued incompetence of Foreign Minister Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington especially in relation to activities along our borders, including the government’s failure to negotiate a protocol on the Sarstoon. Having Duly Considered all aspects of the education campaign, the state of unreadiness for the ICJ Referendum scheduled for the 10th April 2019 and the majority no position of party supporters. Declares 1. The decision whether or not to submit the Guatemalan Claim to Belizean territory for final adjudication is a national issue that should only be submitted to a referendum after a balanced, fully resourced and comprehensive education campaign. 2. The current education campaign being conducted by the Government of Belize is disorganized, under-financed and not sufficiently balanced. Demands 3. That the education campaign be re-designed, managed and implemented by a well-resourced, independent Referendum Commission. 4. That: a. the Referendum Act be amended to make the results of all referenda binding; b. the Maritime Areas Act be amended to claim for Belize the full extent of rights under international law; c. the Representation of the People Act be amended to allow Belizean’s abroad to vote in the Belize – Guatemala ICJ referendum, and to guarantee the integrity of the voting and counting of ballots in an ICJ Referendum and d. that the current legal opinion be revised and updated to include the latest information and developments on the territorial and maritime claim and that the updated opinion be widely circulated. 5. That the backlog at the Vital Statistics Office, which is being caused due to political interference and mismanagement, be cleared up so that Belizeans applying for their documents can receive them in a timely manner and that immediate action be taken to ensure equal access and treatment be given to all Belizeans 6. That all persons who have satisfied the requirements for registration as electors be allowed to vote in an ICJ Referendum. 7. The immediate removal of Wilfred ‘Sedi’ Elrington as Foreign Minister. Resolves 8. That in accordance with this People’s Declaration the People’s United Party recommends that Belizeans vote NO to the ICJ. 9To remain vigilant and proactive in defending the national interest at this critical time in the history of our beloved Belize.
Former Foreign Ministers during a PUP Government: Godfrey Smith, Lisa Shoman and Assad Shoman were absent from today’s session at Independence Hall. The PUP foreign minister who declined to join them at the Prime Minister’s press conference, Eamon Courtenay was present to show his support to Briceno at today’s Independence Hall press conference. Now that the ICJ lines have been clearly been divided as UDP for Yes and PUP for No, there is no united position for the country as the Government presses forth with its education campaign. A little over 2 million ballots were cast and 1.7 million Guatemalans voted yes during their April, 15 2018 referendum. The population of Guatemala is 7.5 million which means that only 26.6 percent of eligible voters cast their ballot. The low voter turnout signifies that the Belize/Guatemala issue is not a pressing concern for 73 percent of Guatemalan citizens.