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The Opposition People’s United Party has filed a motion in the Senate, seeking to pass amendments to the Maritime Areas Act to set a defined boundary to the maritime area in the south that belongs to Belize. Opposition Leader John Briceno has for some time, raised the matter before the House of Representatives, but to the Government side, the message goes into one ear and exits the other. The Opposition, no longer on the mood to wait, will make its move at the next Senate meeting. PUP Senator Eamon Courtenay explained.

Screen_Shot_2017-10-31_at_7.45.41_PMSenator Eamon Courtenay on maritime areas act

“We prepared a draft of the amendment, we took some advice on the proposed amendment and we sent a letter to the National Assembly on the 20th of October asking for it to come up at the last Senate meeting, they took the position that the four days’ notice was not met because we sent it on the 20th and the meeting was on the 25th and so they refused to put the motion on the agenda, I wrote to the President and said well if that is your decision can you assure me that it will be on the next Senate meeting since more than four days will have elapse, this morning  got a reply from the National Assembly that it will be on the agenda for the next sitting of the Senate so the procedure will be that the motion will be proposed second debated and if it is passed then the Bill will be introduced as an item for debate at the Senate. I have no idea why the Government has not done this, am sure that the government has seen the same advice that we have seen where the government of Belize was advised that if the Belize/Guatemala dispute was not going to be resolved by negotiations then one of the first things to do is to amend the Maritime Areas Act to protect Belize’s interest and to claim all our territorial seas and all our exclusive economic zone as provided by International law, the government has not done it we believe that it should be done and so we have decided that this along with other issues on the Belize/Guatemala issue we are going to be pushing forward I can only assume that if the government wants to be nationalistic, if the government wants to be patriotic it will fully support the PUP and support our leadership on this issue.”


“Speaking of support has this motion been brought to either the social partners or the business community within the Senate?”

Senator Eamon Courtenay on maritime areas act

“We have Senator Thompson and have done some consultation among the non-governmental Senators and so far we have been getting full support for the motion that will be moved at the next Senate meeting, the only senator I have not yet spoken to is Senator Rocke,  I would hope that the church will see its way to raise the Belizean flag to be nationalistic and to be patriotic and not being political on this issue and to support the motion.”

So what amendment to the act is being proposed? It’s for Belize to declare the full extent of their maritime boundary by law. Courtenay said that with a series of negotiations with Guatemala having failed, it is just right to secure our maritime boundaries.

Senator Eamon Courtenay on maritime areas act

“The maritime areas act was passed in 1992 and at that time from the Sarstoon River going north to Ranguana Cay we did not claim twelve miles, under international law you can claim twelve miles of territorial sea and then after that 200 mile of exclusive economic zone, between Sarstoon and Ranguana we claimed three miles, that left a portion of sea that we could claim as Belizean territorial sea but we reserve the right to claim it at a future date but what it was design to do was to give flexibility to say if a settlement could be worked out with Guatemala, you know that one of the things that they have always wanted is free passage to the Caribbean Sea, let us say for example Belize could claim four miles or five miles and leave a sliver there for Guatemala to go out if that were to happen that would not become Guatemala Sea it will remain international waters so it would not be that we were giving any sea to Guatemala it would simply mean that we would not claim all and it would remain international waters, the Maritime Areas Act, however, said that that position of only claiming three miles and not claiming the maximum amount that we are entitled to was for the purpose of a negotiating settlement, you know that in 2007 the Secretary General of the OAS said there is not possibility of negotiating a settlement and so you had in December 2008 the Special Agreement  to submit this dispute to the International Court of Justice, the point being that the reason why we did not claim the maximum amount of territorial sea has now been removed because we no longer negotiating a possible settlement, legal advice from as far back of 1991 had advised us that if a decision was taken to go to court or to go to arbitration you need to claim all the territorial sea and all your exclusive economic zone so the amendment proposes to amend section three so that we claim right up to a distance line because there is not 24 miles between Belize, Honduras and Guatemala in that southern part of the sea.”

There is no set date for the next meeting of the Senate.

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