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PUP Senator zooms in on referendum budget

On April 15, more than seven million eligible voters in Guatemala will decide whether their government will take its territorial, maritime, and insular claim on Belize to the International Court of Justice, ICJ. The Guatemalan government has embarked on an extensive education campaign that has covered months of work and a large percentage of its population, with the aim to obtain the results it wants after polls close on April 15. Here in Belize, while a campaign has been launched, it is not as widespread as in Guatemala which has spent millions of dollars as a result. Before a referendum takes place in Belize, there will be a reregistration exercise for which the Government has budgeted some eight million dollars, twelve million dollars less than what had been announced. The budget for the ICJ referendum campaign is significantly less. These two matters were brought up during the Budget Debate by PUP Senator, Eamon Courtenay.

Eamon Courtney, Senator: “In approximately three weeks Guatemala is going to hold its referendum on whether to submit the Territorial Dispute to the ICJ. This government, the United Democratic Party has said that it intends to hold a referendum in Belize towards the end of 2018 at the latest the first quarter of 2019. It is acknowledged that there must be must be a massive education campaign to prepare Belizeans to make this defining decision but Mr. President lo and behold on page 232 of the budget book $40,000 is all that is being budgeted for the education campaign for the ICJ; are we serious? We on this side will not support any education campaign with a budget of $40,000 Mr. President that must be a joke. We have joint commission Mr. President established and reenergized between Belize and Guatemala that is designed to advance and implement the thirteen agreements that were signed at the Placencia summit. Not a dollar is in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs budget to address that commission; that brings me Mr. President to the re-registration exercise which must be conducted. The government has committed to doing it and if I recall the Prime Minster he put it off, he deferred it because it was going to cost $20 million. At page 238 of the budget book $8 million is all that is budgeted for reregistration Mr. President. We call on the government to ensure that adequate resources are made available for the reregistration exercise and that it be allocated fairly. Mr. President these are issues reregistration, ICJ education campaign for which we have got to make sure that all resources required are made available, they are at the heart and foundation of our country.”

Belize is expected to hold its referendum sometime late this year or early next year.