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March 09
12:32 2019
March 8th. 2019 -

The ICJ Referendum scheduled for April 10 may or may not happen, depending on whether the Supreme Court will grant leave to the PUP to contest the legality and constitutionality of the Special Agreement. The PUP wants to ask the Court to determine whether the Minister of Foreign Affairs had the power to legally bind Belize to the Special Agreement which requires Belize to hold a referendum without prior legislative approval.

The PUP filed a claim on Wednesday in the Supreme Court, seeking the Court’s intervention before the April 10th Referendum. The application comes on the heels of research done by three attorneys, namely Richard “Dickie” Bradley, Anthony Sylvestre and Kareem Musa who put forth a public submission that the signing of the Special Agreement was illegal because it circumvented parliamentary process.

If the Court grants leave for the hearing, it will suspend the date of the Referendum until a judgment is made on the matter. Bradley commented publicly that the PUP’s position is that the holding of that referendum would be a part of an illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional action based on the arguments it has put forward in the public domain.

Bradley shared that a team of attorneys conducted the research at the request of the Belize Peace Movement, whose members were convinced that some violation had taken place from the time the Compromis was signed in 2008.

“I learned that the Special Agreement signed in December 2008, when it was taken to the Senate in late November or December 2016, that that in fact was an application to the Senate to seek the authority to ratify the Special Agreement, turning it into a treaty and that changes the legal complexion of the matter. If it was a regular treaty there is no problem – the Minister of Foreign Affairs can sign treaties; the government can enter into treaties. But the difference with a treaty like the Special Agreement is that wherever the Executive signs and wants to ratify, and is bringing in a treaty which is a law on the international level, we are now bound in a treaty with Guatemala over this matter. It’s a treaty. So the law changed in 2017 and our research has shown that the Special Agreement which was signed by our Executive branch of government through the Foreign Minister does a number of things which are not permissible in law. You can’t enter into a treaty which affects the domestic law of the land; neither can you go and enter into a treaty which is going to infringe or affect the rights of the citizens of the land without going to the lawmakers, without going to the Parliament,” Bradley argued.

Belize’s Referendum Act requires that any proposed settlement to the dispute with Guatemala must be brought to the voting public to indicate by ballot whether they support it or not support but it does not have binding effect; but the Special Agreement trashes the Referendum Act and binds the government to the results of the referendum.

Today, Anthony Sylvestre explained to journalists that other senior attorneys have also formulated the same opinion as they who conducted the research and this is why a claim has now been filed, so the application is not an attempt on the part of the PUP or anyone else to stop the process but to ensure that the process itself is carried out in a proper manner. The Special Agreement was never taken to the National Assembly for approval, Sylvestre challenged.

Leader of the Opposition, John Briceño has also written to Prime Minster Dean Barrow, asking him to postpone the Referendum until the Supreme Court can hear the claim and make a ruling.

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