G.O.B. Walks Back on Re-Registration, P.U.P. Still Pushes
The Government appears to have a turnaround on the issue of re-registration. The Election and Boundaries Commission had decided a few weeks ago that the exercise, postponed twice since 1997, would be postponed a third time to 2018, which is after the municipal elections and after redistricting of electoral boundaries. Following outcry, Government has written to the National Trade Union Congress of Belize indicating that while it will still be postponed, it now takes place before redistricting. According to Prime Minister Dean Barrow, “Government wishes to await the outcome of the Senate Select Committee Inquiry, before embarking on Re-Registration. At the end of the Inquiry, Government would wish to carry out an exercise to determine, pursuant to the Select Committee Inquiry Report, how many Nationalizations/passports were given illegally. Thereafter, Government would seek to cancel such Nationalizations/passports.” He adds that waiting on re-registration would prevent holders of illegal passports from re-registering as they might do if they go before. Secondly, the Government says it cannot find the estimated twenty-million dollar cost for re-registration in the current fiscal year but hopes to do so, though not to that tune, next year. P.U.P. leader Briceño counts it as a victory, though the Government should not wait a moment more.
John Briceño, Leader, P.U.P.
“This alternate world that he lives in: twenty million dollars? That sounds a little bit far-fetched to do re-registration. He is also pointing out that because of the Senate Special Committee, through the investigations that are taking place right now, he wants that to finish first, and then look at the issue of, quote unquote, illegal nationalities, that he can review that. Again, that makes no sense; that holds no water, simply because he has those files available. We are talking about a little over two thousand one hundred questionable files of nationalities that were issued between October 2011 and February 2012. So all he needs to do right now is have the Immigration Department review those files and then if anything was done wrong, he can correct it – he doesn’t have to wait until this investigation has taken place. Now, he likes to say give us a solution: how can we bring down the cost of re-registration? I have a simple one that I would like to propose to the Prime Minister, because they are saying that it is very costly to the political parties because they have to take their supporters to register and bring them back and that is a huge exercise. We’ll be prepared to support if they make an amendment to the law whereby that to access any services from Government, you need to give your registration card, your voters’ ID, and if they do that, then you would go on your own to register, because you know you need that card to access the services of the Government; that is a simple example or idea that can be given to the Government. But again, we are claiming victory on this one, because we were saying from early on that you must have re-registration before re-divisioning. It still can be done; there is no reason why it can’t be done this year.”
“In that circumstance, is there any way that the Government can be pressured to move up?”
“It can only be done if we do it collectively, as a community, as citizens of this country to make sure that they have re-registration right now. Obviously, it is not in the U.D.P.’s political interest to have re-registration right now; because they have padded certain divisions, and by padding, having people registered in those divisions where they don’t live, it gives them an inherent advantage. Like San Pedro, Belize City, Belmopan, San Ignacio/Santa Elena, and Benque. Because we know that a lot of people have been registered in those areas and they do not live in those municipalities.”
The Prime Minister has committed, in addition to the position on redistricting, to have no referendum on going to the International Court of Justice for the Guatemalan claim taking place until after re-registration is completed.