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Maritime Areas Act to be amended #536372
05/18/19 05:42 AM
05/18/19 05:42 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
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Following the YES vote on the ICJ, Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Dean Barrow announced that one of the first steps to be taken to move the matter along will be the amending of the Maritime Areas Act. As it stands, the Act limits Belize’s claim to three miles of the sea at the mouth of the Sarstoon. This was done to facilitate a channel for Guatemala to have access to the seas while Belize and Guatemala were in negotiations. Since there will no longer be any negotiations, Belize will now be claiming all that it is entitled to under international law.

P.M. Barrow told the press that with the claim, there is not much that is expected to change operationally in the southern waters he explained that, “ I don’t expect that anything will change on the ground, or in the sea, as it were it is just to preserve, to make absolutely sure that we preserve our rights for the case that’s going to be argued. I don’t expect that there should be any difficulty at all. That’s not what the intention, to create any problem for our neighbor; not at all,” he said,

Legal counsel for the government of Belize on this matter, Lisa Shoman, further explained to The Guardian that, “the amendment is to remove the three-mile limitation that was in place only to serve as a platform for negotiation. We are not in negotiations any more. Moving to the ICJ means we are past that, so that possibility of auto-limiting ourselves to three miles in the south will be removed. We will claim up to the extent of what we can claim. You are allowed 12 miles but if you can’t get 12 miles then it is the mid-point between the two,” she said. Shoman also noted that there is also the consideration that has to be given to Honduras as they too share territorial waters. She said that as a result of that the three countries’ claims inevitable intersect one another.

As for the original Act, Shoman noted that “the only reason we were doing this limitation was in case we could get a settlement. And if we got a settlement, we would have had to bring it to the Belizean people. The Belizean people, our bosses, have now told us go to the ICJ. So, we don’t need this anymore so that part will be amended but the Maritime Areas Act is still important in terms of the EEZ the 12-mile territorial sea zone, all of that. But there are important aspects of it which won’t change but that section that has to do to the little limitation to three miles will now be removed,” she explained.

Prime Minister Barrow explained that there already exists an amended Act which was prepared by international lawyers. It is now a matter of reviewing it and thereafter taking it to Cabinet for a decision. That decision was taken on Tuesday May 14 where Cabinet has approved that the 1992 bill be taken to the House of Representatives for amendment.

PM Barrow also stated that they will also be sending a copy of the draft bill to the Opposition for them to review. He stated that he was hoping for complete unanimous support. The matter will be taken to the House on Monday, May 20 and submitted to the Senate on the following day, May 21.

When that is done, the ICJ will formally be notified as to result of the referendum and the government will inform them that it is in a position to submit the claim to their jurisdiction. PM Barrow stated that thereafter Guatemala and Belize have a month before the, “clock starts running.”

The process will first see Guatemala getting a year to memorialize their position. The Belizean government then has a year to respond. Guatemala will then be given an opportunity to reply to Belize’s response and then Belize can once again reply to their response. It is expected to be a long drawn out process to run between four to six years to complete.

Belize’s legal representation will be handled by Freshfields Brukhaus Deringer, which will be the coordinating firm. Ambassador Assad Shoman has been appointed as Agent for Belize and Ambassador Alexis Rosado will be Co-Agent.

The role of the Agent is to represent Belize officially at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and to monitor and coordinate the work ahead that Belize’s team of lawyers and other experts will undertake as Belize takes its case to the ICJ.

The Guardian


PUP Will Vote For Maritime Areas Act Repeal

Yesterday, we showed you our interview with PUP's Julius Espat, who said that in next Monday's House Meeting, he was prepared to support the Government Maritime Areas Amendment Bill.

It's on the checklist of priority objectives to complete before Belize's goes to the ICJ to challenge Guatemala's territorial claim. Espat explained that the electorate has spoken in last week Wednesday's referendum, and that as a servant of the people, he must respect their wishes.

So, we wondered what his fellow PUP parliamentarians intended to do when this bill was tabled. The Opposition had a parliamentary caucus meeting to discuss just that today, and after a 2-hour session, Leader John Briceno took a few questions from the waiting press on the consensus they've reached. He said that his party will support the amendment, especially they were already pushing for it:

Hon. John Briceno - Leader of Opposition
"Well always before we have a house meeting and senate meeting, all parliamentarians meet to discuss the order of the day and to build a consensus what the party's position is going to be for the house meeting. So, that is what we just had this afternoon."
                                                                                 
Daniel Ortiz
"So it was focused on the proposed maritime areas act amendment right?"

Hon. John Briceno
"Well there are two bills that they're proposing. One is an amendment to the Maritime's area act and also the income tax and procedure bill, where they are attempting to merge both the income tax and the GST departments as one. On the Maritimes area's amendment bill, I think it will go through all the stages on Monday, as you all know, the PUP has been very clear when we took out the people's declaration, where we said that one of the recommendations/demands that we're making is the amendment to the Maritimes area's act where we can claim the entire area that we can as afforded under international law. So we had that discussion and this afternoon and obviously then our parliamentarians are prepared to go and support that. Ironically, it is pretty much identical to the bill that Senator Courtenay presented in the senate just some time last year. I don't see us opposing to those amendments. It is the right thing that, it's not the PUP or the UDP that is going to the ICJ, it is Belize and I think that all of us - political parties, NGO's, citizens, we have a responsibility to be able to work together on this issue. It's not about scoring political points but it is about ensuring that we put our best face front that we could put the best case possible to ensure that we protect every single square centimetre of what rightfully belongs to Belize."

Reporter
"Are all PUP parliamentarians on the support of the withdrawal of the special agreement claim?"

Hon. John Briceno
"Well, we did not discuss that, I just informed them that I met with the claimants and with the legal advisor and the claimants, after we had a discussion said that they leave that up to me as the leader of the party to make that decision and as the leader I felt that is in the interest of everyone to be able to drop that claim. The Belizean people have spoken and we must at all times, respect the will of the Belizean people."

Channel 7


Re: Maritime Areas Act to be amended [Re: Marty] #536409
05/21/19 06:28 AM
05/21/19 06:28 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 63,016
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

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Marty  Online Happy OP

Maritime Areas Amendment Bill Receives Unanimous Yea Vote

Preparations for Belize to take its case before the International Court of Justice, in respect of the unfounded Guatemalan claim, continue to be made, following a historic referendum on May eighth.  Since the people of Belize overwhelmingly voted in favor of proceeding with the territorial dispute before the world court for resolution, government has been taking requisite steps before notifying the ICJ of its position.  Last week, we reported that two persons have been named as agents of government to oversee the matter going forward.  Those persons are ambassadors Assad Shoman and Alexis Rosado.  There are also two persons from the Opposition joining the bipartisan effort going forward.  They are Senator Eamon Courtenay and attorney Leslie Mendez.  The subsequent step in preparing for litigation was to amend the Maritime Areas Act.  This morning, in what has to be the shortest house meeting on record, the House of Representatives met in special session to table and pass a motion to amend the twenty-seven-year-old piece of law as it relates to Belize’s territorial waters under international law.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano has the following report.

Isani Cayetano

“Do we foresee any friction with Guatemala now that we’re reclaiming our full twelve miles of seas?”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“That’s a good question.  That’s a good question.  I think, again, that’s why the legal team wanted the amendment to the long title.  I thought it was already clear that all we were doing is saying that what had been passed in order to act as an aid to negotiations was now being, in fact, repealed and so that we would go back to the position under international law.”

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

…and that position under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS, as it is known otherwise, entitles Belize to twelve nautical miles of territorial waters.  In 1992, that distance was shortened via the passage of the Maritime Areas Act so as to allow Guatemala access to the high seas.  This was done under the leadership of Prime Minister George Price as a show of good faith during negotiations between Belize and Guatemala, in an effort to resolve the territorial dispute.  Twenty-seven years later, the legal clauses stating the conditions of the Maritime Areas Act are being undone in a historic show of bipartisanship.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“I rise to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Maritime Areas Act, Chapter 11 of the Substantive Laws of Belize, Revised Edition 2011, by repealing the provisions of it that had the declared purpose of providing a framework to seek a negotiated, definitive agreement on territorial differences with the Republic of Guatemala and leaving in force provisions of it that define the maritime areas of Belize on the basis of international law.”

The long title to which PM Barrow refers encompasses what was initially considered to be a clear definition of the maritime areas of Belize.  However, on the advice of government’s counsel, specific changes were made to the proposed amendment for further clarity.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“The change, to me, is a distinction without a difference but our team of international lawyers advised that in their view it would be best to do this for the sake of absolute clarity and to make sure that no one would think we are doing anything other than going back to the international law position and doing no more than taking out what had been put in the Maritime Areas Act for the expressed purpose of trying to aid the negotiation with Guatemala.”

On the other side of the floor, Opposition Leader John Briceńo whose charge it was, having listened to the membership of the People’s United Party, to a lead a ‘no’ vote in the May eighth I.C.J. referendum has also embraced the spirit of bipartisanship in the interest of Belize.

John Briceńo, Leader of the Opposition

“Point 4B of the People’s Declaration stated that the Maritime Areas Act be amended to claim for Belize the full extent of rights under international law.  We on this side believe that the proposed amendments before us today fulfills Point 4B of the People’s Declaration.  We are satisfied that these amendments are such that is in line with similar maritime legislation of other countries in our region, like Jamaica and St. Lucia.  Now Mr. Speaker, this is but one step in the process that will lead us to the I.C.J. and we start in this spirit of bipartisanship because we want the world to know that when it comes to our sovereignty and full territorial integrity we will not be divided and we will be one nation.”

With the Governor General’s assent, following a Special Sitting of the Senate to ratify the amended law, a formal notice will be sent to the International Court of Justice to commence the legal process, an expectedly lengthy undertaking.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“We can now send the notification, or as soon as the Governor General signs it into law, we can send the notification and we are off.  I want to repeat what I said, that already the legal team is looking at the preparation of the brief for the application of the Sarstoon Provisional Measures.  I would dearly hope that it wouldn’t become necessary but again, I wouldn’t hold my breath there either.  So we are proceeding on the basis that we will have to make the application and the lawyers are hard at work.  But in effect, once this is signed by the GG it means that we are off to the races.”

To my initial question, PM Barrow admits that while he does not have an answer, a great deal of what results from the repeal of the Maritime Areas Act will depend on the Guatemalans whose access to the high seas will now be limited.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“It’s a fair question and I can’t know the answer.  A lot will depend on the Guatemalans but from our point of view the intention is not to cause difficulties for the Guatemalans.  It is just to preserve our position so that when the judges give their decision there can be no prejudice in consequence of the fact that we had not, in fact, gone back and extended to the full extent allowable to us under international law.  So that’s the objective, it’s not to cause the Guatemalans any trouble.”

Channel 5


Re: Maritime Areas Act to be amended [Re: Marty] #536493
05/25/19 06:09 AM
05/25/19 06:09 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 63,016
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

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Marty  Online Happy OP

Amendment to the Maritime Areas Act is Soon to be Law

The revised Maritime Areas Act in which Belize is reclaiming all twelve miles of its territorial waters under international law is complete, following the Governor General’s approval of the amended piece of legislation on Wednesday.  The GG’s assent was the final phase in a three-step process that began on Monday with a Special Sitting of the House of Representatives.  During that meeting a bill was introduced and passed after three consecutive readings and on Tuesday, the Senate also supported the bill unanimously.  According to Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, what’s left is for the papers to be gazetted and the I.C.J. will then be informed of Belize’s position on going ahead with the adjudication of the territorial dispute with Guatemala.

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

“The bill went to the House, it was passed by the house, after that the procedure is that it goes to the Senate and the Senate also passed the bill, pretty much unanimously.  After that, the National Assembly puts the record together, sends it over to the Attorney General which is myself and then I prepare a report, a legal report for the Governor General, telling the Governor General that everything is in order.  The Governor General then chooses to assent at that point.  The Senate meeting was Tuesday, we sent that over Wednesday and that very same day the Governor General assented.  So the Governor General having assented, the matter is, the papers are sent back to the National Assembly who then sent it to Print Belize for it to come out in the next issue of the gazette.  So the Governor General has assented and so whatever amendment we pass in the House and Senate has now been assented to and passed as law by the Governor General.”

Isani Cayetano

“Is there a timeline now for when all of what has taken place is communicated to the I.C.J. in terms of the position that Belize has taken to have this territorial claim adjudicated?”

Michael Peyrefitte

“Well it’s not necessarily a timeline but we will do it immediately.  I expect that if we haven’t taken steps to do that already certainly by next week all of that information will be sent to the I.C.J. telling that of course we have voted for going to the ICJ after the referendum.  The people voted yes we’re going, and so they now know that we will be having a case since Guatemala had already indicated that they voted yes and they’re going.  So Guatemala has a year after when we send in our indication that we are prepared to go to the court.  Guatemala then has a year to get their memorials, their case ready.  They will send up their affidavits, their cases, their laws, whatever.  They have a year to do that.  We have up to a year to respond to that and then Guatemala can respond to our response and then we can respond to that.  So you’re looking at about four or five years before this matter is heard before the I.C.J.”

AG Not Sold on the Idea of Occupying Reclaimed Territorial Waters

Opposition Senator Eamon Courtenay suggested during a meeting of the upper house on Tuesday that Belizeans, including civilians and members of the armed forces, begin to utilize the twelve miles of territorial waters allowed under international law.  The notion comes with the amendment of the Maritime Areas Act which initially allowed Guatemala access to the high seas by reducing Belize’s territorial waters to three miles.  However, the idea does not sit well with Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte who is wary of inflaming an already tense situation with Guatemala.

Isani Cayetano

“I notice that in the Senate on Tuesday you were rather guarded in your response to the suggestion that we have reclaimed the full twelve miles of our territorial waters that we should be able to make our presence known and this suggestion came from Senator Courtenay that perhaps the coast guard and artisanal fishermen, Belizeans on a whole should be able to enjoy that extra twelve miles freely.  You were a bit guarded on that.”

Michael Peyrefitte, Attorney General

“Well I was only a bit guarded with that because then we also want to make sure that we don’t do anything to unnecessarily provoke a situation.  That’s our maritime area, that’s what we’ll be enforcing, that’s what the B.D.F., coast guard and everybody will be patrolling to make sure that we maintain the integrity of the border; however, at the same time if we don’t have to get into any unnecessary wrangling or quarrel with the Guatemalans then why do that?  Why do that when we have a court matter that will go and that we are very confident will come down in our favor.  We don’t need to quarrel when we know that the law and righteousness and everything is on our side.  So while he is correct in the sense that now that we have re-declared it officially, by law, naturally we’re going to enforce it, but you don’t want to give the impression that oh, all of a sudden now because we have declared that, we will cause any unnecessary trouble.”

Channel 5



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