Belizean electorates across the country will have the opportunity to vote on the issue of offshore oil drilling in Belize in a People’s Referendum. The referendum date is set for Wednesday, February 29th and according to the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage, it will be held in all 31 constituencies including Belize Rural South. There will be polling stations in every electoral division and for Ambergris Caye the polling stations will be at Central Park.
Speaking on behalf of the Coalition, the Vice President of Oceana-Belize Audrey Matura Shepherd explained to The San Pedro Sun that the People’s Referendum is in response to the call of the public. That call of the public is that action must be taken despite the disqualification of 8,000 of the 20,000 petition signatures initially collected from citizens requesting a referendum on oil exploration on offshore Belize.
Just how will the referendum process work? Matura-Shepherd explained that registered voters only will be allowed to vote once but can vote in any polling area. Once a voter has voted in any of the 31 division that they find themselves that day, their name will be entered into the database which will strike out the name to ensure a onetime vote only. Voters will be dipping their fingers in ink as a way to show who has already vote. The process will ensure that the “integrity of the process” is withheld.
Matura-Shepherd explained that polls countrywide will be opened as early as 6AM and will remain open as late as 8PM. The time frame will allow for as much time possible for people to participate given the fact the date is not a public and bank holiday. Such allotted time will allow electorates enough time to participate in the referendum process after working hours should they are not allowed time during normal working hours. Matura-Shepherd stated, “I want to ask the employers to allow their employees time to go out and vote. This is an issue of national importance and a process in which every Belizean is democratically entitled to participate in.”
There will be only one question asked in the People’s Referendum. The Yes or No question that will be asked reads as follow: Should Belize Allow Oil Exploration and Drilling Offshore?
Because the referendum was turned down by the Government of Belize to be held simultaneously with the double elections on March 7th, the People’s Referendum will have to be solely a people’s movement initiative. For that reason, Matura-Shepherd is asking for support from all Belizean and businesses to make the referendum a success. The Coalition is asking for support, financially, in-kind and even volunteers to help on the day of the event. Bank accounts have been set up at Scotia and Atlantic Banks under the name of “The People’s Referendum” for financial support.
Oceana is also asking different organizations, including the Association of Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of the Supreme Court to participate in this referendum. They are asking local J.P.’s to be present as observers while the voting is going on in order to demonstrate transparency during the process. There will also be present people from abroad. They are also asking the churches and other organizations to participate.
Those wishing to give an in-kind donation such as food, water, tents, chairs, fuel, vehicles for mobilizing electorates and even volunteering of their time can get in contact with the local contacts. For those wishing to donate or volunteer please contact with Melanie Paz at 620-1281 or Shelly Huber at 651-3533.
“The referendum date is set for Wednesday, February 29th. Polls countrywide will be opened as early as 6AM and will remain open as late as 8PM. For Ambergris Caye the polling stations will be at Central Park.”