Posted: Sunday, December 17, 2017. 11:26 am CST.
By BBN Staff: Despite agreeing on two parliamentary motions in 2017, the Senate meeting this week proved that both the United Democratic Party (UDP) and the People’s United Party (PUP), still have not made any strides in workable cooperation for solving the territorial dispute with Guatemala.
The People’s United Party, through its Senator Eamon Courtenay, tabled a motion this week to amend the Maritime Areas Act, to allow for Belize to claim its 12 miles of territorial sea under international law, a motion that the Government’s side, with the assistance of Church Senator Ashley Rocke rejected before it could even be debated.
Courtenay explained that currently Belize is only claiming three miles of territorial sea, and could not claim the full twelve, because of an arrangement with Guatemala in an effort to settle the territorial dispute. Since the arrangement fell through and both countries have decided to explore the option of going to the International Court of Justice, Courtenay said that Belize can now claim its full maritime area.
Government Senators said they did not support the motion for various reasons. Notably Senator Carla Barnett agreed that the amendments need to take place, and that the full area needs to be claimed; however, she did not support the motion because she said that the timing wasn’t right. Senator and Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte said that the Senate should not be the place where the motion should originate, but rather at the House of Representatives by elected officials.
Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs foreshadowed how the Government would vote whenever the opposition tabled the motion, accusing them of political grandstanding. Elrington went on to say that the PUP had legal advice that the Act should have been amended from 2001, during the first of a two-term era in office for the PUP. Elrington said that the PUP had between 1998 and 2008 to bring the motion and did nothing, leading him to believe that the current motion is to score political points.
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