ICJ date will not change and Assad Shoman may come on board Print E-mail
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Friday, 02 November 2018 00:00

Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Dean O. Barrow held a press conference on Monday, October 29, 2018 and while he covered several important topics, he could not neglect the issue of the ICJ. With the date for the referendum drawing closer and closer, PM Barrow reaffirmed that the date for voters to determine whether the territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala should go to the International Court of Justice is fixed. And more than being fixed, the campaign is being strengthen to keep the fixed date, despite the leader of the opposition’s asking that the referendum be deferred until after the 2020 general elections.

“The Foreign Minister, Cabinet, and I have agreed on a number of steps to fortify the Referendum Education Campaign as Belize prepares to keep its April 10, 2019 date with destiny. And you heard me currently: The I.C.J. referendum date is April tenth, 2019 and we have no intention of changing that date.  Apart from his public statements, the Leader of the Opposition had raised privately with me the possibility of a postponement when we met a little over a week ago.  But I did not find the reasons offered for the suggestion at all convincing especially since the postponement the PUP leader wanted was until after the November 2020 elections.  The arguments for postponement, as I understood them, was that April tenth, 2019 is too close to November 2020 and to hold the referendum as scheduled would somehow contaminate it with partisan electoral campaigning for 2020.  But unless there is a deliberate P.U.P. plan to do that to have that happen, the year and a half between April tenth, 2019 and November 2020 would surely provide enough of a firewall distance between the two events.  Then it was most recently said by the Leader of the Opposition that the fact that our I.C.J. legal brief is not yet fully formalized is another reason for postponement.  But again, that makes no sense.  Why would we completely finalize our I.C.J. preparations before we even know if we are going to the ICJ.”

PM Barrow continued with an explanation of how the process would work. He also explained why there is no need for a postponement. “And especially when our case, as Assad Shoman’s summary in his most recent book makes it crystal clear, is already so factually obvious and legally compelling, that applying finishing touches would not require very much time. But that there is more than sufficient time is also borne out by the ICJ procedure. As I have been advised, if Belize votes yes on April 10, the ICJ submission process starts to run one month thereafter. So, Guatemala would have one year from the 10th May 2019 to submit its arguments to the court and copied to us. We would then have one year after that to respond. Then they would have another 6 months to reply to our response; and we would have 6 months more thereafter for our rejoinder in their reply. Surely that timetable is overly adequate for us to get everything fully and comprehensively together before trial. So, there is no good reason to postpone. And if we did, we run the risk of alarming all our international friends whose support for us had been key and whom we need to keep onside.”

The Leader of the Opposition has asked for a postponement and PM Barrow explained that it is only in his party’s interest and not the nation’s. “How his Party is to vote is clearly causing the Leader of the PUP some serious internal difficulties. We sympathize and understand why he would want to postpone that gigantic headache. But the national, as opposed to Party, interest cannot countenance a postponement.”

The official education campaign is pressing ahead and the team in charge of the campaign has been strengthened. Persons that have been added on include ambassadors Lou Anne Burns and Dylan Vernon and High Commissioner Perdomo. CEO Wallace will use the Office of the Prime Minister to help untie bureaucratic knots. There are even talks going on with Assad Shoman because of his outstanding academic and practical expertise. PM Barrow considers him “an invaluable resource.”