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Sep 25, 2012

Bad penmanship and the foiled offshore referendum

Audrey Matura Shepherd

In the past few weeks, Oceana and the government have been back and forth in court in the preliminary stages of a case, challenging the validity of six oil exploration contracts. Well, they were back in court today; this time over the disqualification of over eight thousand signatures in Oceana’s campaign to trigger a referendum on offshore drilling just prior to the general elections. A mock referendum was held by Oceana in which ninety-six percent of almost thirty-thousand voted against offshore drilling. The NGO is now seeking judicial review of the decision by the Chief Elections Officer not to accept the signatures because of bad penmanship. Oceana Vice President, Audrey Matura Shepherd spoke to the media after today’s case management session at the Supreme Court.


Audrey Matura Shepherd, Vice President, Oceana Belize

“We went in chambers because this is a case management and what case management means is that we have to look at the different dates when we think certain affidavits should be filed, when we think that certain statements should be given and by when we think the trial could commence. So this will definitely drag on until the end of the year; there are different preliminary things we need to do. But I think maybe of great interest is the fact that there is a possibility—it’s not concrete yet—that was mentioned in chambers by the counsel for the government, Miss Barrow, that they will be looking into the possibility of doing of course, preliminary objections. They going to be questioning whether we filed certain things on time based on the order given previously and of course, as you know, no surprise to us they will try and strike out the matter before it reaches the court. So I think that’s going to be our first uphill battle that we will be dealing with and thereafter of course, we go through the process.”


Marion Ali, Love Television

“How concerned are you that that will be the case; that you will have a lot of stallings happening?”


Audrey Matura

“I think strategically, I do expect that from the government. You all have to remember that it is not in the best interest of the government for us to go through this case. Let me remind you what this case is about.  In this new referendum Act, basically what it was saying is that we the people can bring a referendum. It was the first time that it was being tested fully and it was important for us to test it fully. As a result, you all know that there was a decision by the Chief Elections Officer, nullifying forty percent of the signatures of the petitioner. We did not feel that that was proper; we had twenty-one days within which to appeal that judgment so what we did, we applied for judicial review to review the decision of the Chief Elections Officer and as a result of that we got permission from the court to start judicial review proceedings. But what is important in this case is that very soon there will be another referendum coming up and people need to know that they can have faith in the system of referendum and they need to know that when it is told to the people you have a right to have a say, you should have that right. So this is beyond just us saying that we must have a referendum on the issue of whether there should be offshore oil drilling or not, but it’s testing a legislation that was given to us by this administration that was saying we are giving you the people the power.”


The government is now being represented by Naima Barrow of Barrow and Williams instead of two Crown Counsels from the Attorney General’s Ministry, who previously appeared on its behalf. Barrow is expected to present the defense by Friday.

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7 Responses for “Bad penmanship and the foiled offshore referendum”

  1. Storm says:

    Who is the chief Elections Officer, or ANY government official, to tell me what my signature must look like?

    If I cannot write, and I mark my “X”, that is still my legal signature!

    So GOB can take away my right to petition, to vote, because they arbitrarily decide they don’t like my handwriting?

    I’m not sure how I would vote in this referendum, but the bigger issue that we should consider protesting, is how the government can take away 40% of Belizean votes in a corrupt way.

    I think it was Stalin who said something like, “It doesn’t matter who votes. What matters is who COUNTS the votes.” HAVE WE FINALLY DESCENDED TO SUCH A CORRUPT AND TYRANNICAL LEVEL HERE IN THE JEWEL?

  2. Bear says:

    If Belizean penmanship is not up to government standards, who is to blame? The public school system that taught most of us how to write!

    When who can vote and who cannot depends on what some government employee decides by looking at our penmanship, democracy is finished.

  3. Uncle Benji says:

    Do you recall the fox/grape story? Sour grapes said the fox, because he could not have the grapes.

    Someone needs to give this woman (Madura Shepherd) a check under the table. For a few bucks, she will lie down her destructive ways.

    Yes Belize needs to protect its environment and sea habitat, but Belize also needs oil drilling. This means work……. less crime……… good for the economy.

    Come on Shepherd, life has not been good to you, but do not take this out on the Belizean people. Everytime you show up, George Price rolls in his grave.

  4. cayobway says:

    @ uncle benj.
    only a few folks in belize benifit from the oil company, and we all know who they are, the barrow family,and other attorneys who help them get contracts the average belizean do not get anything from the oil concessions.

  5. ceo says:

    This is so much BS I cannot believe it. A signature is not for anyone to read easily, so if the law says signatures then they need to accept it. If the actual name should appear beside the signature then this is different, but in any case these forms are never easy to read.

    How long did they come up with this response?

    Our system is messed up and no one in office thinks with their brain: they can only see two colours; red or blue!

    Oil companies have no scruples! If they could do what they did to America and mess up the golf just imagine what will happen to Belize’s coast because we do not have the clout the US has to force them to clean up their mess.

  6. Seletar says:

    @ceo, good point. My signature is illegible, and it is intended to be that way, so it is hard to forge.

  7. Al says:

    Let me ask a question, who is benefitting from the drilling that is already pumping oil, the people? How many Belizeans are employed at the drill site today. How is the country better off today because of the oil production?

    Do some research and find out what happens when an oil spill when it occurs in the ocean. Check out what happened with the Valdez and the most recent spill off the Texas and Mexico cost.

    One oil spill can put many fishermen out of business, cause harm to fish life and impact the availability of seafood for people consumption. The economy will suffer becasue tourists will stay away from a contaminated ocean, Hotels offering a seafood menu will have to discontinue those dishes.

    This governent need to go for the slow ten cents and get away from making a hasty buck. So who will benefit from offshore drilling, politicians, politicians, politicians, not the people. Look at who is representing the governmnet a Barrow, got the picture.

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