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There has been much talk about taking the long standing territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala to the International Court of Justice for final resolution, but for the case to be taken to the ICJ both countries must first hold a national referendum. While Guatemala has started the process to hold consultations for the referenda to take place, Belize had not done so. But that is expected to change very soon as government will amend the existing Referendum Act to lower the threshold needed to prevail in the voting exercise.

Today Foreign Minister, Wilfred Elrington explained the process.

Screen_Shot_2016-11-24_at_8.03.24_PMHonorable Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs

“Cabinet has taken the decision to take the amendment to the referendum act and have it pass into law on the 9th of December, the effect of that will be that when we hold the referendum, for there to be a successful referendum the majority will have to be simple majority 50% of those people who go to vote plus one and that is going to make the referendum a successful one.”


“Sir, we are effectively lowering our referendum threshold, explain to us why is this necessary and how does it help in trying to further this agenda, resolving the Guatemala claim once and for all?”

Honorable Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs

“All we are doing is making the referendum threshold consistent with all the other thresholds that we have for elections, the majority of the people, the decision the majority of the people is what prevails and in this case and as with all elections the majority is 50% plus one so it was never intended that a referendum should be any different, we had legislation which suggested a higher threshold in relation to referendum but it had no intension of really being the case in relation into this particular issue, the issue of the Belize/Guatemala claim when the decision was taken way back in the 60’s to have the matter resolve by referendum had the people decide whether it should go to the ICJ or whether we should accept any other solution by referendum the contemplation was not that it should be anything other than 50% plus one.”

But while GOB has taken the stance that lowering the threshold is the best way forward in the matter, there are those who believe that amending the act is simply GOB giving up to Guatemala’s demands. Elrington though, thinks otherwise.


“There are those who have formed the view that by Belize choosing to rectify the referendum threshold bring it to a simple majority, they view this as Belize somehow giving up ground or passively accepting pressure that Guatemala has brought on Belize, what is your thought on that?”

Honorable Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs

“That view really has no basis, it is not a view that is grounded on any basis really but human being are complex and people forms all kinds of views and they are entitled to their view, am simply saying that what we are doing now is what was contemplated from the 1960’s and what it was expected from us from the international community and what is right under the circumstances.  The move to amend the legislation is a perfectly good one, as a matter of fact it is one that all of our allies and supporters have expected us to do and it is basically consistently that early thinking and what is regarded as the best way to move forward with respect to this matter.”

Cabinet is expected to meet on December 9th.

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