By Dolores Balderamos Garcia
Friday, May 17, 2019
Last Wednesday’s vote was a critical plebiscite, one of the most important, if not the most important, in the history of independent Belize. A plebiscite, according to my favored Concise Oxford English Dictionary, is “the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question.” Of course the term is associated with the word “plebeian,” which means a commoner, a member of the lower class, an ordinary person, one of the masses of people, as opposed to a “patrician,” an aristocrat or member of the noble class in ancient Rome. The vote was for everyone, and our Belizean people did speak through their X’s, loudly and clearly. Now we must move forward, and we must hold leaders to account in ensuring that the next steps are proper, transparent, and explained pellucidly to all.
The experience of voting day was generally good (except of course for the vote buying by the UDP that was obvious), and it allowed those of us in the political arena to practise for later votes and elections. Naturally there were glitches, and a very sad time for me and my people was having to witness the ire and bemusement of persons who were not able to vote. In Hattieville several persons who had their brand new ID cards were left off the list. In Ladyville we were shaking our heads that two women, who were never informed of their “pending” status, fervently wanted to cast their votes, only to discover that they were not on the voters roll. When they went in to re-register they gave their telephone numbers, and election officers ought to have informed them that they did not make the list. In my view this is unforgivable. As a matter of fact one of the young women went to the election office in Ladyville the evening before the vote to ask for her ID card. I met her outside, but unfortunately the office was already closed. She would have found out then that she wasn’t on the list. It broke my heart to see how sorely disappointed she was on voting day. She was effectively disenfranchised.
I next note the comment of the Commonwealth Observer Team led by Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham of the Bahamas that the majority of polling staff were women. Women hold up Belize !!
Make no mistake. Men control most of the power and decision-making, but it is we women who make things happen and keep things functioning in our country. Kudos to the election staff, but there should have been a more efficient system for giving out the ID cards. Similarly, ALL of the scrutineers at Ladyville RC School for the poll in Area 30 for our party were women. My thanks to everyone for a job well done, including the guys of course ! I also thank the Police. They were very helpful particularly for elderly voters, and I felt that they were professional.
On our way to the Western Zone of the Hattieville and La Democracia polling stations, it was around 12:30 pm. Love FM news was on, and to my surprise and annoyance interviews with Assad Shoman and the Prime Minister telling people to vote YES were being aired. Am I the only person who noticed this clear violation of proper conduct ? I thought that campaigning and trying to influence the vote on voting day is illegal. I must call out the news editor. This was just not right.
And I pause as well to commend the comments of colleague Senior Counsel Magali Marin Young, which she posted after the referendum lest we forget. She has quite rightly pointed out that we should not simply forget the flouting of the rule of law and the dictatorial behavior of the Prime Minister. We must also not forget the abject failure of the PM and his foreign minister to have the education campaign and the entire process properly conducted, as well as the failure to take the Special Agreement to the National Assembly for their imprimatur. There were in addition a number of irregularities which she has pointed out. Naturally the point that I have taken most poignantly in all the process prior to the poll, and I have said it repeatedly, is that the election and boundaries department and vital statistics office did not do their work correctly. There are still far too many errors. Hundreds of Belizeans have been disenfranchised, and Magali is so right to call out those responsible, the PM being chief among them.
Anyway, as noted, our people in their majority have decided. We respect this, and post plebiscite we must insist that going forward every effort is made to unite and continue to educate our people and as well to keep the Opposition engaged and on board for the good of all Belizeans.