Legal Action a possibility without offshore referendum
Oceana Belize has taken the brunt of the Prime Minister’s sting over the lost referendum. However, Audrey Matura Shepherd says it will go forward with its own nonbinding Referendum on February twenty-ninth. When asked, the Oceana VP says that court action would come rather than a demonstration.
Audrey Matura Shepherd, VP, Oceana Belize
“We were in an atmosphere where we felt—based on the very words of the Prime Minister—that it was a welcomed venture. Yes we say little signs on the side, but the official word was that it was welcomed. Now why is it important for the mandate to be before elections? Man Jules, you better that I know the election process; if the party in power win they will say but see the people put me back in so the mandate is continue what I am doing. And if the other party in opposition wins, they say well we noh get a mandate from the people, we could come in and do what we want. The only two parties that have been very clear on the issue—denouncing outright offshore oil—is the VIP and the P.N.P. let’s be real. So people need to understand that when you go into an election process being that these things called manifestos and promises and so, the leaders need to know in advance that the people are highly motivated and know about issues like these: and so they move ahead with it. You don’t wait until after elections when they are in the euphoria of having won and then you hear all the big announcement of the fist hundred days and hear this issue just get backburner. This is not a backburner issue. The position of the group as a whole; the position of the Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage which was decided at a meeting with the membership is that on the twenty-ninth of February, we will have the people’s referendum. So that’s the action. That’s a call to action. It takes a lot for people to come out on a work day to come out and participate. We are being peaceful. We are not even listening to the part that’s saying demonstrate. We’ve never ruled out the court action process and we are very cognizant of how the process could be slow and all the nuances that can affect the results, but we are prepared to go to Court of Appeal and as high as we need to because this is something very important; it’s historic. If we have any government—remember this referendum act was passed by the previous administration, then amended by this administration. They’ve always told us that the people have the power. And so here we are now trying to use this power in a law and then we find that we are being curtailed. So I think if in genuinely any government meant for the people to have a say through the referendum act, we have to challenge it and strengthen that act.”
Matura Shepherd has maintained that the Coalition has not received the list of eight thousand names that were rejected from the signature collection exercise.