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PUP Files Motion to debate an Amendment to Maritime Areas Act

The People’s United Party filed a motion asking the Senate to debate an amendment to the Maritime Areas Act.  According to the PUP, the proposed amendment is designed to remove those sections of the Maritime Areas Act that would have enabled a negotiated settlement of the claim by Guatemala to Belizean territory. If approved, the amendment would mean that Belize will claim all its territorial seas and exclusive economic zone as provided for under international law. Lead Opposition Senator, Eamon Courtenay, explains.

Eamon Courtenay – Lead Opposition Senator

“At the last National Party Council meeting at the end of September this year a resolution was passed for us to commence a claim in the Supreme Court seeking a declaration that Section 3 and 7 of the Maritime Areas Act are invalid and have no force of law which is something that we intend to do but we also felt that we should move the National Assembly – since the government has been sitting down doing nothing on this issue- and so we prepared a notice of Motion, we studied that standing orders, we prepared a draft of the amendment, we took some advice on the proposed amendment and we sent a letter to the National Assembly on the 20th of October asking for it to come up at the last Senate meeting. They took the position that the four days’ notice was not met because we sent it on the 20th and the meeting was on the 25th and so they refused to put the motion on the agenda. I wrote to the president and said ‘well if that is your decision can you assure me that it will be at the next Senate meeting since more than four days would have elapsed. This morning I got a reply from the National Assembly that it will be on the agenda for the next sitting of the Senate. So the procedure will be that the motion will be proposed, debated and if it is passed then the bill will be introduced as an item for debate in the Senate.”

The PUP has been pushing this motion for the past several years. Whether or not it will be successful remains to be seen.

Eamon Courtenay – Lead Opposition Senator

“I have no idea why the government has not done this, I am sure that the government has seen the same advice that we have seen where the Government of Belize was advised that if the Belize Guatemala dispute was not going to be resolved by negotiations then one of the first things to do is to amend the maritime areas act to protect Belize’s interest and to claim all our territorial sea and all our exclusive economic zone as provided by international law. The government has not done it we believe that it should be done and so we have decided that this along with other issues on the Belize Guatemala issue we are going to be pushing forward. I can only assume that if the government wants to be nationalistic if the government wants to be patriotic it will fully support the PUP and support our leadership on this issue. I don’t think we should make our policy and our decision based on the way Guatemala is going to react we must put the national interest first and foremost and keep it first and foremost at all times not subjugated to whether or not someone is a nice foreign minister or somebody gets along well with another foreign minister. The issue here is what are we to do to protect our national interest and to ensure that our legal case is strong in the event this matter were ever to go to the ICJ. I have not given any thought to what Guatemala’s response would be but I can tell you this, I can only expect that they will not like it because our advice is that this is something that should be done in order to protect our interest and my interest and our party’s interest is the interest of Belize and so we need to do what is right.”

According to Courtenay, PUP Senator Paul Thompson has met with Senators representing the Social Partners except for Senator Ashely Rocke who he hopes will support the motion.