The People’s United Party has submitted a motion for an amendment to the Maritime Areas Act to be entered on the agenda of the next Senate meeting for consideration and debate. The amendment will propose that Belize includes in the Maritime Areas Act the full length of its recognised maritime territory, extending the 3 miles outward of Sarstoon area and Ranguana Cayes to the 12-mile limit as permitted under international law. The fact that the PUP is moving the bill for debate in the Senate seems to have bugged Foreign Minister Sedi Elrington however. Today he accused the Opposition of grandstanding on the issue.
Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington, Foreign Minister
“When I heard that an initiative was going to be made to bring the matter in the Senate to have it amended I caused for my staff to look for the original advice because I was told it was based on a legal advice, I have never seen the legal advice and no legal advice was in the ministry of foreign affairs, we had to inquire about its existence and a copy was furnished to our office last week by Ambassador Assad Showman it turned out that that legal advice was given to the government from about 2001/2002 now I cannot for the life of me understand why it was and nobody did anything about it because from 2001/2002 the PUP government was in office from 1998 to 2008 they had the information, am told the Mr. Courtney was at one time foreign minister he had the information, Said Musa had the information why wasn’t it dealt with between 1998 to 2008. I don’t know what makes it so urgent now but rest assure the nation needs to understand that this is a matter which we have been ceased of, which we dealt earlier this year so it is not on a matter that we are unaware of and not dealing with we are in fact dealing with as any responsible government should do but I will tell you the propensity or the tendency for people who would want to grand stand like matters like this is very strong, grand standing will only hurt you it doesn’t help a society to grand stand on issues like this and the grand standers need to put to task well when it was your turn why you did not deal with it, why did you not even raise it, you raise it now but you had it in your possession for what eight years, ten years, why didn’t you deal with it so it is not a matter to grand stand it’s a matter of serious and we will deal with it in the usual serious way in government we deal with these matters.”
Senator Eamon Courtenay, who has been appointed as the Party’s Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs, was on hand to respond to Elrington’s assertions. Courtenay said it is Elrington who has dropped the ball on the issue.
Eamon Courtenay, PUP Shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs
“I will go on record to accuse him of (1) dereliction of duty, secondly, ignorance of history, thirdly, a lack of understanding of the intricacies of this process. The Belizean people must understand that the Maritime Areas Act was passed in order to try to arrive at a negotiating settlement of this dispute it included in it a provision where we did not claim all our territorial sea and exclusive economic zone from the Sarstoon to Ranguana to allow an agreement if possible to be reached and if approved by the people, it is from then 1991 that the legal advisor said if no negotiating settlement is achieved we need to make the full declaration of your territorial rights and exclusive economic zone so that goes back to 1991. What does Mr. Elrington apparently either does not understand or he understand it and he is misleading the Belizean people about is when is it that Belize and Guatemala agreed that no negotiating settlement was possible, that was in December 2008 when Wilfred Peter Elrington as foreign minister of Belize signed the special agreement saying we should go to court, the People’s United Party was not in government when the decision was taken by the parties that the matter would go to court if the people approve it in a referendum and therefore the condition for the removal of the provision in the Maritime Areas Act didn’t come up until he signed that agreement.”