Valiant Valerie Abstains
On Friday in the House of Representatives, former Prime Minister Said Musa made history. He got a standing ovation from the other side of the house when he announced that he would abstain on voting on the Belize Territorial Dispute Referendum Bill. That was a form of implicit support for the government side - and a definite diss for the opposition, whose leader had said they would all stand against the bill, which was introduced by the government as a way to fast track and re-schedule the referendum which its currently stuck in the courts.
So, that was Friday. Today was Senate day - and all eyes were on Senator Valerie Woods. She has publicly stated that her position - like Musa's - is against the party line: she favors going to the ICJ. So how would she vote today when the bill - which is trying to push ahead with referendum, against PUP wishes - went to the Senate?
She didn't disappoint. Senator Woods made it clear that she had arrived at a position after long soul searching.
PUP Wants Time and Precision In New Law
And while Senator Woods did exactly what her leader told us on Thursday she would NOT do - the party's Senior senator, Eamon Courtney held the party line and opposed the bill. In a lengthy presentation he went through a long list of substantial objections. He urged full disclosure and a spirit of bipartisanship in open dialogue:,..
Hon. Eamon Courtney- PUP Senator:
"Let us sit down as Belizeans and analyze the risk identified by persons like senator Hulse, Mr. Gandhi, Sir Eli, assess it and provide not an absolute guarantee that Belize will not lose any territory because we cannot honestly do that; but tell Belizeans what is the measurement of that risk so that people can make an informed decision..."
Church Senator Says Don't Procrastinate On Vote
Senator for the churches, Ashley didn't share that conservative opinion - he said waiting around any more is just procrastination:...
Hon. Ashley Rocke, Church Senator:
"We have to stop beat around the bush. People want to go to the referendum. Why are we still here today? We've concluded that the real issue in this hold matter is twofold; one is procrastination. Waiting and waiting for God knows what. Instead of us get with the business of the people and move forward. We've also said that the next problem seems to be re-registration. There is clearly discomfort about the whole re-registration process. But we need to be careful what we ask for, for we might just it and we get it, the reality is we must learn to live with it."
Ashley, God Pikni
And while Pastor Rocke didn't mince words on why he is in favor of the bill - he surprised the media in the gallery when he turned on them with a stern admonition, straight out of a Sunday service:...
Hon. Ashley Rocke, Church Senator:
"I don't come here to support any special group, but to listen and to pick sense out of nonsense. That's what I come here to do. So for you there on the camera that go about telling people about Pastor Rocke, I want you all to know that I have been called by God. I am an anointed servant of God and you know what the bible says about touching the Lord's anointed? It says be very careful. I have been sent by the church to say we support the bill."
Hon. Salas Says Run Di Referendum
Also supporting the bill was the NGO senator. Senator Osmany Salas explained that - in his view - voters have an appointment with history:..,
Hon. Osmany Salas, NGO Sentator:
"The opposition say we must hit and a couple of my colleagues have said we must hot the pause button and I have to ask for how long? I heard 2 years. I've heard about a 25 years deepfreeze. The UDP/ Government is adamant that we should have the referendum during this current administration. That is my read. While my read is that the opposition is determine to kick this can down the road. I have to ask to when?
Labour Opposes New Referendum Bill
And while the NGO sector and the Churches supported the bill, the labour Senator did not. Senator Elena Smith explained why:...
Hon. Elena Smith. Labour Senator:
"But they are all concern that this matter has become too political and my job really and truly is not to stand here point and say who started it or who did what. But my role is to say to us that a matter of this nature must not be taken politically. Because when we do so, we are doing a disservice to our Belizean people, because if you are telling me that I must vote my conscience then how can I vote my conscience when people are coming to tell me vote yes, vote no..."
GOB Wins Senate Vote Easily
As Panton mentioned, business senator, Mark Lizarraga seemed to have not supported the bill in his presentation - which you'll hear later on. But, on the division - which is where all members have to state their individual vote - he gave a kind of equivocal "no". We'll pick up the voting with Senator Woods on the PUP side with her abstention. This is after the UDP side have all voted yes, And Senator Eamon Courtenay has voted no: