Latest — 12 January 2019 — by Rowland A. Parks
PUP leader’s statement suggests party inching toward no ICJ vote

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Jan. 10, 2019– The Leader of the Opposition, People’s United Party (PUP),  Hon. John Briceño, area representative for the Orange Walk Central constituency, issued a statement via a press release on Tuesday, January 8, regarding the party’s recent consultation on the International Court of Justice referendum.

The tone of Hon. Briceño’s statement seems to suggest that the PUP appears to be ready to follow the lead set by its Southern Caucus, which rejected going to the ICJ last August.

“After several months of meeting and consulting with leaders and supporters of the People’s United Party, it is obvious that a majority of the Party’s supporters, for various reasons, are not in favor of submitting the unfounded claim of Belizean territory by Guatemala to the ICJ for final adjudication,’ Briceño’s press release opened by saying.

The release continued, “While I am soon to complete my listening tour, I am sufficiently convinced that an overwhelming majority of our Party members and supporters are going to say NO and as the leader of a mass party that makes decisions in a democratic way, I have an obligation to accept the views of the majority. I am certain that in the final analysis, our Party will say NO to the ICJ.”

The release added, “I am made to understand that some previous Foreign Ministers who served under different PUP administrations will be signing a document, along with the Government of Belize, that will be advocating — yes to the ICJ. I want to make it abundantly clear that these persons do not speak for the People’s United Party on this issue.”

The release ends, “In the coming weeks, the Party will complete the process of consultation and will formally announce to the nation its full and final decision.”

With a mere 10 weeks remaining until referendum day, the PUP’s position is being formulated at almost the 11th hour, notwithstanding the fact that the Special Agreement was signed in 2008.

Former PUP Leader, Hon. Francis Fonseca, area representative for Freetown constituency, also weighed in on the Prime Minister’s press conference, attended by four former PUP Ministers of Foreign Affairs — Said Musa, Lisa Shoman, Assad Shoman, and Godfrey Smith.

Writing on his Facebook page, Hon. Fonseca said: “It is my personal view that the current Government of Belize has consistently displayed a lack of competence in managing Belize/Guatemala relations, and has not carried out an effective, balanced and organized ICJ education campaign. Unless there is some dramatic shift in public opinion over these next 10 weeks, this incompetence and disorganization will lead us to a decisive NO vote on April 10.  Regrettably, I see no such shift on the horizon.

“As a lawyer and former Attorney General of Belize, I share the view that Belize has a very strong case to take to the ICJ. Unfortunately, this view is rendered meaningless in the current environment of mistrust and chaos surrounding the education campaign.”

Hon. Fonseca added: “Personally, I would have preferred for the former Foreign Ministers to secure a commitment from the Prime Minister to address these issues in a meaningful, serious and truly bi-partisan manner before signing off on a joint declaration in support of a YES vote.

“Until and unless these issues are addressed in a serious, meaningful, bi-partisan way, I cannot, in good conscience, support a YES vote.”

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Deshawn Swasey

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