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Nov 28, 2011

OCEANA taking drilling to referendum

With OCEANA at the forefront of a petition to trigger a national referendum on oil drilling, the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage collected the required seventeen thousand signatures. Government, however, disregarded the success of the campaign and chose not to take the issue to a vote, claiming that Oceana did not move the issue forward. Since then OCEANA has been quiet, but its Vice President in Belize, Audrey Matura Shepherd, says they continued working behind the scenes while the ninth amendment and crime dominated the airwaves. According to Matura- Shepherd, the referendum is back on the radar, whether GOB facilitates it or not. She explained on this morning’s Open Your Eyes that the law allows for a referendum to be held through the Governor General’s office and Chief Elections Officer.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Vice President, OCEANA Belize

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“If the government so badly to have its own referendum, they could have immediately gone to the House and passed a resolution. That is the first mean; they didn’t do that. So if they didn’t do that they don’t have power over a referendum on the issue of oil—they can still do it before they dissolve parliament next week, they can still do it this week and say quickly resolution we’re saying there should be a referendum on the issue of oil and say what the question is. So that aside, what happened we sued subsection two to say we will call the referendum, we will trigger the mechanism to establish a referendum. It’s a people’s movement. Once it’s a people’s movement the government has absolutely no say. This is the section we used, subsection B; Section two one B where we are the ones triggering it. It doesn’t say anything about the government or the prime minister.”

Marleni Cuellar

“So you present it to the governor general.”

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“We have to present it to the governor general and the governor general must forthwith present it to the Elections and Boundaries. The governor general has absolutely no discretion other than to say one we give it to the governor general the law is clear.”

Marleni Cuellar

“And you have at least ten percent of registered electors.”

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“See it says “where a petition is presented to the governor general in the forgoing provisions—meaning here—the governor general shall forthwith refer the petition to the chief elections officer for verification of the signatures of the petition and for certification that at least ten percent of the registered electors in the entire country—because we’re using the entire country—have in fact appended their signature to the petition”. So the governor general noh have wah discretion fi seh well I noh like the way your petition deh, I noh like—there’s no discretion. And then the law goes on to say that the chief elections officer has two months, no later than two months so it could be less than two months that they need. And afterwards they give a certificate to the governor general and say here there is ten percent of the voting population or the registered voters.”

Marleni Cuellar

“Is that the next move that the Coalition will be taking?”

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“We hope so. We will announce it early next week.”

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