Friday, March 8, 2019
We are just about a month away from the April 10th referendum date. While at first, most Belizeans viewed the issue with some apathy, as the day fast approaches it all seems to be catching ablaze and getting very heated very fast. The two major parties have declared opposing positions on the issue. The People’s United Party (PUP) filed a claim in the Supreme Court this week. In it, the PUP is asking the Court to establish if in fact the Minister of Foreign Affairs had the authority to “legally bind Belize to the Special Agreement and the Protocol without prior legislative approval.” Furthermore, as Article 7 of the Special Agreement requires a binding Referendum, it is not clear whether the Referendum Act provides for one as it now stands.
The opposition has for some time now emphasized that there has been unjustifiable frenzied haste by the Government of Belize (GOB) to have the referendum. They undoubtedly do not want to afford Belizeans enough time to consider unbiased information or even to contemplate the wider repercussions the Referendum may bring. What should have been an unprejudiced presentation of information to the voters has quickly decayed into an all-out Vote Yes Campaign. The emphasis has shifted from getting the entire process precisely right to just getting the desired YES result no matter the unethical means. There are many Belizeans that are still confused about the unfounded Guatemalan Claim.
This United Democratic Party (UDP) Government; Dean, Sedi et al want you to trust in them, that even though you may not understand the complexities and legal jargon of the information meagerly presented to you, they the experts guarantee a favourable outcome for Belize at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). We have heard that before from this GOB, especially right before they lost every case on their dismal track record for litigation. In the event you understand and speak legalese and are still persuaded to vote NO they will try to convince you that you are being emotional and unpatriotic and, in some cases, even uneducated.
Let’s be real and let’s be raw. Belize is far from ready for a referendum of any kind, least of all one that could decide if we go to the ICJ. Thousands are left unable to register because of the chaos that is the Vital Statistics Unit. We have witnessed through video accounts how persons not employed by the Vital Statistics Office are allowed access to sensitive information and we have seen the shambles of records piled high in complete disarray. Article 7 of the Special Agreement requires us to have a binding agreement which we cannot guarantee is contemplated under our present laws. We are uncertain that the Minister of Foreign Affairs had the authority to sign on behalf of Belize for the Special Agreement without first receiving approval from the House of Representatives and Senate. There are too many uncertainties which must be dispelled. There are issues which must be resolved to ensure that each and every citizen of Belize that qualifies and desires to become a registered voter can do so.
We can all agree that living in this democratic country, Belize, is idyllic. In Belize one person means one voice, one vote. We are all equal at the ballot box, none more important than the next. The vote of the expert, of the elitist, of the learned, of the pseudo-intellectual, the massive landowner, the not normal people are no better and count for no more than the vote of the cañero, the farmer, the fisherman, the garbage collector, the student, the teacher, the mechanic, the unemployed, the poor, the uneducated. It comes down to this simple question…how many more of us are there than there are of you? #NO2DICJ