Foreign Minister to COLA: “Take it to court”

Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) has argued that the process which brought GOB to preparing for a referendum on going to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is unconstitutional. However, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington says that only a court of law can make that call.

At the media sensitization forum for the ICJ Educational campaign held at the Radisson Hotel on Wednesday, the  Minister explained that he had never considered the argument.

He went on to say that neither he nor any other entity is in authority to make a declaration of unconstitutionality, and  He invited any party which feels that the matter should be challenged to file an action in court.

The Reporter also posed the question of constitutionality  to the legal team of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ through  Ambassador Stuart Leslie. But there has been , no response forthcoming.

Article 5 of the “Agreement on a Framework for Negotiations and Confidence Building Measures between Belize and Guatemala” signed on September 7, 2005, states that the countries would submit to the recommendations of the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS).

On November 19, 2007, the OAS recommended that the matter of the Belize/Guatemala territorial dispute should be taken to the ICJ.

On December 9 ,2010, Belize and Guatemala signed the “Special Agreement” in Washington D.C, which  described how the countries would go about taking the claim to court.

Article 7 of the “Special Agreement” stipulated that the countries would submit to simultaneous referenda on the issue.

COLA has issued an addendum to its original position paper on going to the ICJ, explaining that with the implications the decision to go to the ICJ would have on the borders of Belize, (which are defined by  the Constitution, under  Section 69) , the matter should have gone to the House of Representatives before the “Special Agreement” was signed.

The decision to hold any kind of agreement with Guatemala without it being taken to a national referendum also contravenes the Referendum Act as well as the Maritime Areas Act.

Section 69 of the Belize Constitution deals with how changes to the Constitution may be made and states: “Upon presentation in the House of Representatives a Bill to alter any provision of the Constitution apart from those referred under Section 69(3) needs a vote of no less than two-thirds of all members of the House of Representatives.”

COLA  makes the point that no such vote was taken to the House and described the government as being “sheened by arrogance.”

With similar wording, Section 3(b) and (c) of the Maritime Areas Act and Section 2(2)(b) of the Referendum Act, state that any proposed attempt to solve  the Belize/Guatemala territorial dispute must be taken to a national referendum .

No such referendum was held prior to the signing of the “Special Agreement” in December 2010. COLA President Geovanni Brackett said. He told The Reporter that a team assembled by COLA, which had several senior attorneys offering their input, extensively researched the position paper.

Brackett has stated that currently COLA is not pursuing any action against GoB.

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