Headline — 25 May 2019 — by Rowland A. Parks
PUP abandons constitutional challenge; BPM steps up

BPM launch defense fund to continue constitutional challenge of Special Agreement PUP abandoned

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 23, 2019– A lot has happened since July last year, when the Belize Peace Movement (BPM) announced that they wanted to challenge the constitutionality of the Special Agreement which Belize and Guatemala signed in December 2008 to have the International Court of Justice (ICJ) resolve Guatemala’s claim to Belize territory.

The referendum on the Special Agreement has come and gone, but the BPM has not given up hope that the Special Agreement could be successfully challenged in the high courts.

Today, the BPM announced in a press release that they have launched a defense fund to raise money so that they could continue the legal challenge to the Special Agreement that was abandoned by the Opposition People’s United Party (PUP). The PUP, for apparent political expediency, abandoned their legal challenge after the government secured a “yes vote” in the May 8 ICJ referendum.

The Opposition People’s United Party had mounted a constitutional challenge that was based on the joint legal opinion that attorneys Anthony Sylvestre, Jr., Dickie Bradley and Kareem Musa, released in February. The central thesis of the joint legal opinion is that the Dean Barrow- led government violated the separation of powers principle, when Belize’s Foreign Minister signed the Special Agreement without taking it to the legislature for debate and approval. In other words, the people’s representatives had no input or influence on the Special Agreement which became a treaty with the Republic of Guatemala.

“On Sunday, 19th May 2019, at its first national planning meeting, the Belize PEACE Movement acknowledged that the results of the ICJ Referendum has essentially relegated Belize to a ‘Disputed Territory’.

“Since the PUP decided to withdraw its legal challenge to the Special Agreement, the BPM shall take up the challenge on behalf of the Belizean people,” said the BPM press release.

The BPM release went on to explain that the Special Agreement was a clear violation of Belize’s Constitution and therefore “a disservice to our country.”

The release added, “In pursuit of its legal challenge to the Special Agreement, the BPM has launched a ‘Good Governance Legal Defence Fund’. The BPM is in negotiations with a law firm that specializes in constitutional and public law in the Caribbean to take up this important case. We therefore call on all patriotic Belizeans, especially the Diaspora who were not allowed to vote, the 43,029 Belizeans who voted NO and the 52,083 who were registered but did not vote, to support the Fund in any way.”

In a telephone interview this evening, Bobby Lopez, BPM’s National Coordinator, confirmed that the BPM so far has received $5,000 toward its legal defense fund. Lopez went on to say that by Monday, they are hoping to raise $25,000 “so we could get the ball rolling.”

Lopez appealed to the Belizean people to contribute to the fund, “anything that you can give, from $5 right up.”

“We will be accountable and transparent with every penny that we get,” Lopez said.

We asked Lopez if he can disclose how much the law firm will charge to take up the case.

Lopez said that last year they were quoted a figure of $50,000 US and that does not include incidental expenses such as traveling, hotel accommodations and other related business having to do with the case.

The case will be handled by Allum Chambers, which is based in Trinidad.

Lopez made reference to a remark that was made when the PUP dropped their claim last week, saying that “now there is no hindrance to going to the ICJ.”

Lopez said that there has been mixed feelings among some of the PUP claimants who had put their name on the lawsuit. “They should have continued the claim, because they believed in it. But we are not going to leave any stones unturned in trying to come up with this money. Most of it will come out of our own members’ pockets,” Lopez said.

We asked Lopez if the BPM move to continue the case that the PUP dropped is not just an academic exercise, given the timeline that PM Barrow announced to approach the ICJ with the referendum results and begin Belize’s paperwork for its case.

Lopez replied, “We are confident, just as the PUP were, that the Special Agreement is unconstitutional. We are very strong about this case; we felt that way a year ago when we brought it to the attention of the Belize Bar Association. It is almost like divine intervention that it has come back full circle and fell right back into our hands. We feel that the Caribbean Court of Justice will have to pay attention to what is happening in our country.”

The press release ends, saying, “To contribute, you may: 1. Make a payment to our gofundme account at: https://www.gofundme.com/manage/save-belizecampaign-amp-legal-challenge, 2. Inbox the Belize PEACE Movement on our facebook page for nearest collection member, 3. Call the Belize PEACE Movement at 610-8867 for a collection agent nearest to you.”

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