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Feb 29, 2012

People’s Referendum Spread in Old Capital

The Coalition had intended to have the referendum on the same day of the elections. That was rejected so it pulled off today’s event in a relatively short time. In the City, thousands came out to say No to offshore drilling. Voting started at six and continues at this hour. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The steady flow of voters, in some places a mere trickle of eligible men and women, making their way through various polling stations across the city is part of a national exercise allowing Belizeans an opportunity to choose whether or not offshore drilling should be conducted within our littoral boundary.  The subject of oil exploration since it was introduced a few years ago has been most contentious, clearly separating those in favor of and those who are against prospecting activities in Belizean waters.

Ernie Gill, Voter

“I support the no on the offshore drilling.”

Dipping one’s finger in the indelible ink, oddly the same color as the much sought after black gold, is a conscious effort being made on the part of the electorate to send a well-defined message to the Government of Belize.

Stephen Okeke

Stephen Okeke, Voter

“My concern is, first of all we haven’t drilled enough on land, so they should explore more inland and with the offshore drilling apart from what happened in the Gulf [of Mexico] that people used as a reference to what could happen in this area, there are more problems in the gulf than was made visible by the big, dramatic spill and that is the problem of abandoned wells.  There is no guarantee that the first well will bring up oil and there is no guarantee that the first twenty wells will bring up oil.  So you will have a lot of abandoned wells that for many years to come will be a problem.”

Along with that trepidation is the adverse spread of consequences an oil spill can potentially have on cruise tourism as well as the fisheries industry.  Ernie Gill, who cast a vote against offshore drilling, shares that sentiment.

Ernie Gill

Ernie Gill

“If something like that would happen in Belize just imagine the catastrophe.  Imagine the domino effect whereas the Fisheries Department would be affected, the regular little fishermen would be affected and even when it comes to the cruise ship industry which is an industry that Belize relies on a lot when it comes to having revenue.  I’m pretty sure Carnival and the other cruise lines wouldn’t want to come to an area where the water is all black.”

On the other side of that argument are government officials, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred ‘Sedi’ Elrington, who advocates for offshore drilling.

Wilfred Elrington

Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs [Courtesy of Love TV]

“I am in favor of offshore drilling. For those people who don’t know, oil drilling has been going on in the world for over a hundred years.  The technology is just about the finest you can find and the oil drilling has been done safely and successfully all over the world, all over the world.  It is just that Belize people don’t know about it.”

Since the issue was first broached in 2010, NGOs, including the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage, have been at the helm of the fight to ban offshore oil exploration, launching a massive awareness campaign.  Today’s effort succeeds a failed attempt to trigger a referendum which was to have been held on Election Day.  The coalition hopes to get ten percent of the entire voter population to support its cause.

Tanya Williams, Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage

Tanya Williams

“Next would be to advocate, continue to advocate for the issue of no to offshore oil exploration and drilling and now we have the numbers to say that the Belizean people, the majority of Belizeans are saying no to offshore oil exploration and drilling as well.  So then we have a stronger argument in terms of whatever government comes into place after March 7th that we can continue to advocate on this issue and we have a strong argument based on the majority of Belizeans.”

…and with that many Belizeans were seen today donning white t-shirts in support of a ban against drilling beneath the seabed.  That expression of antagonism was evident at all the city’s polling stations.  Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

The votes will be tallied and the results will be known on Thursday.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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8 Responses for “People’s Referendum Spread in Old Capital”

  1. belizean abroad says:

    The belizeans get nothing or rather no benefit from the oil industry.All they get is high promises and higher gas prices.It is rediculous to see politicians try to make fools from our belizean brothers &sisters.We never hear of trianing oportunities &facilities to prepare our belizeans to work in the petrolium industry.What about belizean geologistscomputer technicians etc.etc.Plan for the future of the belizean people.Remember politicians are elected to run the afairs of the country not to steal the resources of the countryWhen a politician says” i give u a peice of land” the truth is he facilitated the process of what is rightfully yours.No politician owns the land maybe not even their soul.Arriba belicenos rise &let your voices be heared!!

  2. Cyber says:

    Elrington you have lost so much votes with your irresponsible comment.

  3. Be Real says:

    Jules has exposed this referendum as bogus. Check out his site. People were voting at different locations (i.e. more than once) even with black ink on their finger. OOPS Audrey Matura OOPS.

  4. Rds says:

    I’d like to think Elrington think we are idiots, how comes we the Belizean people don’t know about offshore drilling all over the world, when we read the internet and watch the news and know about all the oil spills all over the world, and yes oil shore drilling has been going on for 100 years all lover the world, but all over the world doesn’t a a world heritage site to worry about. and yes they might have the finest technology, but guess what they will use those finest technology in developed countries where the government would pressure them to do so and take serious actions against them if a spill ever occurs, but this is Belize we talking about everybody comes from all over the place to take advantage of us and nothing is ever done about it. I think Mr. Elrington talks because he has a mouth and doesn’t listen to what he is saying.

  5. Rds says:

    and i agree with Cyber, this arrogant and don’t give a crap about that the people think about off shore drilling mentality will cause Mr. Elrington and more of them to loose the election.

  6. environmentalist says:

    I agree with rds. Sedi definately take us the belizeans for idiots.How can we not know about oil drilling all over the world. That is why we oppose offshore drilling! Because we know about the consequnces! Our reef is priceless people! we wont get anything from offshore drilling. The UDP is in favor becuase they now they will get there pockets full! Only we will suffer if a spill occurs. The UDPis like a bad mother who allows foreigners to come in and rape belize of her natural resource then go back home. Shame on the UDP!

  7. Belmopanese says:

    @ Be Real……….. Ms Matura also stated that because of the fact that they are recording names of EVERYONE who voted, they will be able to weed out those names of people who voted more than once. The process was not perfect, but it sends a message to this and any future government that Belizeans will not longer sit back and have them stuff things down our throats. I say great work Oceana and Ms Matura for taking this step to open the minds of Belizeans…..

  8. impartial says:

    idiots are who failed to see the very clear message the Belizean people sent yesterday… granted, drilling brings jobs and money but it is non-renewable… the reef in a renewable resouce that brings and will bring more jobs and economic development than drilling… besides wehere is the overseeing capacity and the regulatory framework??? Fisheries? BPA? Sedi? Cho? Alegria? DOE??… pleaseeeeeeeeee

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