The PUP made it official today - and said No to the ICJ. The party issued what it calls The People's Declaration - a brief nine point document - culminating in this statement: "the People's United Party recommends that Belizeans vote NO to the ICJ."
Now, this comes as no surprise after the party issued a statement two weeks ago foreshadowing this as inevitable. But, today's declaration made it official, and marked a vary hardline for the nationalist party. Here's leader John Briceno reading out the demands this afternoon at the Party Headquarters, flanked by most of his party's 31 standard bearers:
Hon. John Briceno, PUP Leader
"DEMANDS - That the education campaign be re-designed, managed and implemented by a well-resourced, independent Referendum Commission.
- the Referendum Act be amended to make the results of all referenda binding;
- the Maritime Areas Act be amended to claim for Belize the full extent of rights under international law;
- the Representation of the People Act be amended to allow Belizeans abroad to vote in the Belize â€“ Guatemala ICJ referendum, and to guarantee the integrity of the voting and counting of ballots in an ICJ Referendum and that the current legal opinion be revised and updated to include the latest information and developments on the territorial and maritime claim and that the updated opinion be widely circulated.
- That in accordance with this People's Declaration the People's United Party recommends that Belizeans vote NO to the ICJ."
Now, we don't have any follow up on this declaration - because, in an unusual twist, party leader Briceno didn't take any questions. Party Chairman Henry Usher told the media that they will have a press conference on it next week.
So, basically, the media was called to Independence Hall to hear Briceno read a 6 minute statement off a teleprompter. Not exactly what we would call inspiring fare - and we can only attribute this irregular arrangement to the very delicate state of affairs within the PUP - so delicate that the leader of a mass party would not stand and defend a simple 500 word statement - and one whose conclusion comes as a shock to no one. But, just the delivery of this declaration came out of a very pressurized atmosphere in the PUP - where the party has many ideological and tactical divisions - and Briceno has been walking a tightrope between his own personal position - which he has declared is in favour of going to the ICJ - and the party's position, which is, basically, "hell, no!"
And in the middle of all this is former Party leader Said Musa. We didn't see him at this afternoon's unity moment, but he told us via text message, quote: "As a good PUP, I respect the consensus position of the majority in the leadership as the Party's position !" End quote. We note that Musa stresses the party position, which is not his public position. We are told Musa was present at the morning session of today's meeting to approve the declaration.