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Jan 23, 2017

Will Environmentalists Go for Referendum Again?

Janelle Chanona

It’s been five years since a referendum attempt by Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage failed when Government announced that the N.G.O. was unable to gather the required eight thousand signatures that were needed to push the referendum on offshore drilling. With the now amended Referendum Act putting the threshold at a fifty percent, plus one, the odds are seemingly better for the N.G.O. community to take the issue of offshore oil drilling to a national vote. Here’s what OCEANA Belize’s VP Janelle Chanona had to say. 

 

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, OCEANA Belize

“The news records, the archives show very clearly that as recent as May 2015, the prime minister discussed a national referendum on this issue given the context and that predates even to I believe 2012, prior to those elections saying that the government was in a position or wanted to be in a position to have very clear numbers, indicators, of where national sentiment was on that. And we continue to maintain that a national referendum with binding results would be the most effective and efficient way of determining where we go forward with this issue. Two things; one, because we’d be able to get those numbers, but two; because everybody then—the voting populace, the electorate—would be able to be directly engaged. And we believe certainly that everybody, every Belizean, has a right to participate in this conversation and has a right to be counted. And that is what we have been asking people to do outside of an official medium like a referendum to say stand up and be counted on this issue because decisions are being made. We saw those ships come with no warning, no indication, no environmental impact assessment, no notice that hey, seismic is already being shot. So I don’t blame people for being mistrusting.”

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