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Nov 5, 2018

A Bill for the Diaspora to Participate in the I.C.J. Referendum

In July, Prime Minister Dean Barrow met with representatives of the diaspora to discuss the two-month residency requirement to re-register to vote in the April 2019 referendum. Belizeans living overseas say it is a requirement that they can’t satisfy and up to now, there has been no ‘common ground’ solution to disenfranchisement of the diaspora.  P.U.P.’s Caribbean Shores Area Representative, Kareem Musa, is taking the matter to the House of Representatives and has drafted a bill which seeks do temporality suspend the two-month requirement to give the Belizeans the opportunity to vote on a issue of huge national importance.  News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

A bill seeking to allow Belizeans living in the diaspora to be able to vote in the upcoming April tenth 2019 I.C.J. Referendum has been drafted.  A government mandated mass re-registration exercised garnered total of one hundred and thirty thousand, seven hundred and ninety-two applications with the majority being from Belizeans living in the country. So what about those living elsewhere? Well, in order for them to re-register, they need to live in Belize for a minimum of two months. Some interpret this as the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of diasporans from re-registering” for the simple reason that most Belizeans living overseas cannot satisfy this requirement.

 

Kareem Musa

Kareem Musa, Area Representative, Caribbean Shores

But in addition to that, we are talking about Belizeans who each of us must know an individual be it a friend or a relative, who live abroad  and we all know how much they value their county, how much they want to have an input in their country. So I thought it best that we present a Member’s Bill; because it is a very underutilized bill that is provided for in the Standing Orders.”

 

Standing Order eighty-three allows any member of the House of Representatives to present a bill. P.U.P.’s Area representative for Caribbean Shores has decided he will be that member. Musa will need to advertise the bill on three issues of the Gazette, newspapers as well as present it to the Clerk of the National Assembly. The waiting time is three months before the bill is tabled before parliament. Ongoing registration continues and for any Belizean wanting to take part in the I.C.J. referendum, the deadline is March tenth, 2019.

 

Kareem Musa

“If it is that the Prime Minister were to take carriage of this particular bill this could be done as early as next week. So that eliminates the time factor and that three months window what we would have to wait. What I am proposing is a second exception but tailored specifically to deal with the registration of Belizeans living abroad who do not satisfy the two-month requirement. So what that entails is that there will have to be a separate list and their voter’s identification card will have to stipulate that they are being registered under Section Five-Two-A that will allow them just to vote in the referendum. Not to be registered to vote in any area because they do not fall under that category. They cannot vote for an Area Representative if they do not live in a particular area. It is specifically for them to be able to vote in the upcoming referendum so come April eleventh the way that the legislation is design is that that provision will then become spent and they will be struck off of the voter roll until they can satisfy that requirement once again that they are resident for two months before going to register. So specifically it is for this I.C.J. referendum vote.”

 

And what Musa will have to do now is convince his political foes to join him, at least this once, to provide legal passage for members of the diaspora to have a say on whether or not Belize takes Guatemala’s claim to the I.C.J. for final resolution.

 

Kareem Musa

That is why I am extending the olive branch; I know that day to day politics we fight on every single issue in this country. When we go to the House of Representatives, people say that we are a big circus and so it is important that on an issue like the I.C.J. referendum we get the input of all Belizeans, have an inclusive approach. That is why I think that the Prime Minister and those on the other side will be willing to consider this bill as a step in the right direction.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.

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