BELMOPAN, Cayo, Fri. Dec. 16, 2016–At its sitting held in Belmopan on Thursday, the Senate approved two resolutions supporting the agreements signed by Belize and Guatemala 8 years ago to submit the territorial differendum to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), pending the outcome of national referenda to be held in both countries.
Apart from the resolution authorizing ratification by Belize to the 2008 Special Agreement between Belize and Guatemala to Submit Guatemala’s Territorial, Insular and Maritime Claim to the International Court of Justice 2016; the Senate also approved a second resolution, authorizing ratification by Belize to the 2015 Protocol to the Special Agreement between Belize and Guatemala to Submit Guatemala’s Territorial, Insular and Maritime Claim to the International Court of Justice 2016.
Leader of Government Business, Senator Godwin Hulse of the ruling United Democratic Party (UDP), said that ultimately, the final decision on whether the matter will actually be adjudicated at the ICJ is in the hands of voters.
“This question will be decided in both countries by the people and that is a given—it has to be decided by the people,” he told the press.
The Opposition People’s United Party (PUP) voted against the ICJ resolutions. PUP Senator Valerie Woods told the media that there was no need for the agreements to be ratified by the Senate before the referendum is held. Woods said that she is opposed to the Government using the Senate as a rubberstamp. She cited two reasons for opposing the resolutions: firstly, that Senate ratification was not necessary by the Government’s own admission, and secondly, that a key question raised by another PUP Senator, Eamon Courtenay, SC, “why now…”, has still not been answered.
The Senators received a presentation before their vote from Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington, joined by his CEO, Lawrence Sylvester; nonetheless, the Opposition was not swayed into voting for the resolutions.
The Senate approved a total of 9 bills and 5 other motions at its meeting Thursday. The bills are the General Revenue Supplementary Appropriation (2016/2017) (No.2) Bill, 2016; the Money Lenders (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the National Payment System Bill, 2016; the Domestic Banks and Financial Institutions (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Electronic Transaction (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Food and Drugs (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Belmopan City Council (Amendment) Bill, 2016; the Treasury Bills (Amendment) (No.3) Bill, 2016; and the Income and Business Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
The other motions passed are a Resolution Authorizing the Accession by Belize to the Co-operation Agreement for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARCAL), 2016; a Resolution Authorizing the Ratification by Belize to the Agreement Between the Government of the French Republic and the Government of Belize on the Mutual Exemption of Diplomatic Passport Holders from Short-Stay Visa Requirements, 2016; the Caribbean Development Bank Feasibility Study and Detailed Designs Crooked Tree Road and Causeway Upgrading Loan Motion, 2016; the Caribbean Development Bank Immediate Response Hurricane Earl Loan Motion, 2016; and the Caribbean Development Bank Youth Resilience and Inclusive Social Empowerment (Rise) Project Loan Motion, 2016.