Attempts to influence election are “threat to democracy,” says Luke Palacio
In his statement at the Convention, national president of the B.N.T.U. Luke Palacio made reference to the “stories” he, his Executive and teachers generally have heard in the past few weeks. It is that Government operatives are organizing against Senator Elena Smith, the considered favourite in Thursday’s election. Union members have already been told to have identification handy for the election and branch presidents have been warned to keep an eye out for the suspicious buses being funded to bring teachers expected to vote against Smith in exchange for a free trip to the Corozal Free Zone. Palacio told News Five that not only is it bad form, it undermines the foundations of democracy – both Belize’s and the B.N.T.U.’s.
Luke Palacio, National President, B.N.T.U.
“We have heard this rumoured before, that there will be attempts at the Government forces in particular to bring individuals to the convention tomorrow, so that they can vote for a candidate of their choice – of that particular party, if you will. We have heard that definitely the campaign is against the one female contesting the post of President, and we find that to be very disturbing, because our Union is above party politics – our Constitution clearly speaks to that. In addition to that though, we see this as a threat to democracy. The national Constitution of Belize allows us to have freedom of association. The B.N.T.U. is a registered organization under the laws of Belize, and we subscribe to the labour laws; we subscribe to the I.L.O. convention that guarantees collective bargaining, the right to unionize, the right to freedom of association, and when a Government, or Government operates are attempting to derail what the B.N.T.U. has been known for over these last forty-seven years – every two years, we have these elections and it’s the first time we are seeing this type of interference – and we must not stand idly by and allow it to happen.”