A bill to amend the Referendum Act was passed by the Senate yesterday. The amendment seeks to lower the threshold to carry out a referendum in regards to Guatemala’s unfounded claim over Belize. The threshold was originally set at sixty percent but after the amendment passed through the lower and upper parliament it will now be fifty percent plus one. PUP Senators Valerie Woods and Eamon Courtenay debated UDP Senators Steven Duncan and Michael Peyrefitte on the matter.
Senator Valerie Woods
“See it can’t be that in 2008 the threshold was ok but in 2017 we suddenly woke up and realized for all these years we have not been operating on the right side of history. Mr. President the 1999 version also had a difference from the version that was amended in 2008. Funny enough however that version has not found its way into this amendment and that is the section that refers to the fact that if a certain issue or matter is sufficient national importance it should be submitted to the electors for their approval not just to share their views. This proposed amendment in 2017 if we are to go by the reasons cited in the house meeting of last Friday, has nothing to do with the Belize Guatemala issue, the question that has been on many people’s minds if there will be a referendum to put the question to the ICJ and we should be assured by that because no less than the Prime Minister of the country in that house meeting said “not any time soon”. Certainly gave the strong indication that not even this year and so it begs the question why are we rushing to change the amendment? And why only that section of the current act?
Senator Michael Peyrifitte
“I hear my Friend Senator Duncan say that a lot of the discussion is periphery I would want to take it one step further and say a lot of it is grandstanding because first of all we don’t know what is the real position of some people and some organizations. If I understand correctly Senator Woods, and you can correct me if I am wrong, I heard you say that the amendment does not’ go far enough or you have to put further words to it to add to it to buffer it Senator Courtney after saying all that he said, and if you were listening Senator Salazar he clearly said towards the end of that he agrees with the amendment, the leader for the People’s United Party in the senate agrees with the amendment so what is all this debate about other than just to use it for the purposes of grandstanding ?