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May 8, 2012

OCEANA foresees a double referendum day

Audrey Matura Shepherd

On October sixth, 2013, citizens of Belize and Guatemala will vote in a referendum as to whether the territorial dispute should be forwarded to the International Court of Justice. But a day in which national attention calls the citizens to the poll may also serve OCEANA’s purpose. News Five asked Audrey Matura Shepherd, if the case is resolved in time and in their favor, would they also want that day to serve as a double referendum where the offshore drilling and exploration question could be vetted by the public.

 

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Vice President, OCEANA

“That wouldn’t be a bad idea because I think that when, in April 2008, when the then government in its first hundred days said that we are amending this referendum act and interestingly when they amended the referendum act what they did was create a statutory duty because you have to remember what the act says. This act is saying that it was amended to enable the general public to call for a Referendum on any issue of public importance. So you created a statutory right. So when that was created by the government, we the people now have this legitimate expectation that we can use the law to effect our voice. If this matter can be solved; if we can get the courts to rule in oru favor, it would not be a bad idea to join the issue of the oil referendum to the issue of the referendum of the Guatemala dispute—after all the people of this country have been made to believe that they have a right to have a say on any matter of national importance. And so the one that says any matter of national importance was an extension included by the then government. So you can’t say I’m giving you a right but yet frustrate it. People need to understand that when the law gives you a right and you seek to exercise it, no matter what is done to try to frustrate it, the reason why you go to court is because in societies like ours where we claim to be a democracy and the rule of law prevails, is that you try and use the mechanism in place to go and get your answers or your disputes resolved. And so that is what we are doing. It is not something that is taking the government by ambush because they had ample notice that we would proceed and even though we are going to court, we would still expect that our three questions to be answered.  And those questions are: who are the eight thousand and forty-seven people who were disqualified? The reason for each one of them being disqualified? And what process or procedure was put in place behind the scenes to determine what were the rules of disqualification.”

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