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Apr 10, 2019

The Impact of the Delayed I.C.J. Referendum

Were it not for the stunning results of well-timed legal hurdles placed in the way of government, Belizeans across the country would have been anxiously anticipating the results of a referendum this evening, having voted Yes or No to go to the International Court of Justice.  An interim injunction granted by the Chief Justice a week ago could not be expeditiously appealed on Monday, as determined by the Court of Appeal. So with the injunction in place, the referendum is on pause. At a House sitting this coming Friday, government will be seeking the next step to put the referendum back on track.  So what does the postponement of a vote on such a huge issue of national importance mean? This morning, News Five’s Duane Moody, took to the streets of Belize City to get the thinking of Belizeans on the impact now that date of the poll has changed.  Here is that’s story.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

As early as seven o’clock this Wednesday morning, polling stations across the country would have been opened as tens of thousands of registered Belizeans would have taken to the polls to make that important decision on whether or not the territorial claim between Belize and Guatemala should be taken to the International Court of Justice. But that referendum process has been postponed until a later date, yet to be announced, so classes went on as normal at the designated polling stations across the city and country. But were registered voters anxious about going to the polls and what would have motivated their decision?

 

Alyssa Duran

Alyssa Duran, Registered Voter

“Family mostly and like weh I believe that at the end of the day, Belize dah fu we. If Guatemala come and fight fi we and win it, weh we wah have? I know everybody have family out there and if Guatemala come, weh we wah have fi give dehn. Weh we wah have fi land back pan since we young; we still live with our parents. We noh wah have nothing if dehn win. So I believe that Belize dah fi we and we must fight fi what we believe ina.”

 

Pamela Gibson, Registered Voter

“I got registered from in July of last year.”

 

Duane Moody

“So you understand the importance of what…”

 

Pamela Gibson

Pamela Gibson

“No I don’t.”

 

Duane Moody

“How come?”

 

Pamela Gibson

“Well nobody really explain anything to me so I don’t really know what it is all about. I just pick up from the little things that I hear around and around and that’s about it. So I am glad in a way that they postpone it so that we can learn more about it and they could inform us more about it and we can go from there.”

 

The general sentiment from Belize City residents today is that there is more to be done in the education campaign. Without adequate information, they are unable to make an informed decision whenever a new referendum date is announced.

 

Jenna Ferguson

Jenna Ferguson, Registered Voter

“To be honest, I just believe that we needed more time; we needed more people to be educated of why we are going and just give more awareness because a lot of people still confused about this and it is just the mis-message that they have been bringing to us and it’s just being misinformed and being mis-communicated.”

 

Alyssa Duran

“Honestly, noh really because at the end of the day, a bunch of people come on news and talk bout this ah weh dehn believe ina instead ah dehn come ina di area and host a meeting with the people and say this dah what we as Belizeans know and this dah weh Guatemala di say dah fi deh. We noh have that information. All we have dah vote yes and vote no from P.U.P. and U.D.P.”

 

Like eighteen-year-old Alyssa Duran, many others feel that the referendum process became politically charged and not reflective of the national impact that the outcome would have.

 

Jenna Ferguson

“Between the two parties coming together and trying to figure out what we could do and being based on how both of them were in between the decisions, it was kinda confusing. Fully, I would want us to go so we can stop the madness, but with the two party coming together it is not showing any kind of teamwork and plus example to the Belizean people what we want to do together to accomplish one goal.”

 

Pamela Gibson

“It’s not a politics thing. So we the Belizean people really have to think about it and decide what we want to do. Well I know I am voting no. Nobody can change that.”

 

Duane Moody

“Why no?”

 

Pamela Gibson

“Because I think Belize is for us. Why should we go to any court? We are an independent country so why should we have to go to any court to decide if we belong to Guatemala.”

 

Coincidentally, the referendum unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were out today in downtown Albert Street furthering the education campaign. The unit has been at various events across the country leading up to today and as Anazette Olivera told News Five, the work continues to inform Belizeans about the national issue. She sees the delay as a positive.

 

Anazette Olivera

Anazette Olivera, Volunteer Coordinator, Referendum Unit

“Despite the fact that we are not physically having the referendum today, we should have a referendum in the near future. It’s unfortunate that the events happened prior to today, but it doesn’t mean that the education stops. We have to continue educating the Belizean populace. We got out here about ten-thirty this morning and it is after twelve and the material we had are almost out since morning. We have had a lot of persons that are disappointed that the referendum is not taking place today because some people really wanted to get it over with. And also we had some persons coming to the booth asking for necessary information that may help them decide when the day do comes.”

 

The youth population has grown to become a large percent of the voters’ list and many believe that they can tip the results in any given direction. The University of Belize has been very active in providing expert opinions on the territorial dispute; several forums have been held at campuses across the country so its students can make an informed decision. Student government rep, Lynette Palacio says that the delay provides for an independent campaign.

 

Lynette Palacio

Lynette Palacio, Admin Officer, Belize City Student Government, UB

“Personally, I was prepared to go to the polls today. So it was unfortunate that it has switched and they are pushing it back because I know some people that they bought their tickets to come to Belize just for the I.C.J. [referendum] to vote yes or no. So it is unfortunate that they have pushed it back, but I think now what’s important is to not push this yes or no campaign, but more to push this informing people what exactly is going on.  Yes I’ve seen that you are pushing a yes and yes I’ve seen that you are pushing a no. Why are you pushing this yes or no? What are going to be the repercussions if I vote yes or no.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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