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May 3, 2019

April Tenth Referendum Ballots Destroyed by Fire

Boxes containing one hundred and seventy-three thousand ballots went up in flames today during an organized exercise carried out by the Elections and Boundaries Department. The ballots were to have been used for the April tenth referendum, but with a new law and a new date, the ballot papers were no longer valid. The Chief Elections Officer, Josephine Tamai, says it was necessary to destroy them to avoid mischief. News Five’s Hipolito Novelo reports.

 

Hipolito Novelo, Reporting

Thirty-one boxes, representing the thirty-one electoral constituencies and containing one hundred and seventy-three thousand ballots were destroyed by fire today. The ballots were originally printed for the April tenth ICJ referendum, under Chapter Ten of the Referendum Act with the question on whether or not to submit the Belize/Guatemala dispute to the International Court of Justice for final adjudication. Due to legal proceedings, specifically the Chief Justice’s decision to grant the People’s United Party an interim injunction on the referendum, the ballots became void. The Prime Minister, who is determined to holding the referendum sooner rather than later, introduced and the House passed the Belize (Territorial Dispute) Referendum Act 2019.

The destruction was led by the Elections and Boundaries Department and for purposes of transparency; the media was invited to witness the burning of the ballots.

 

Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer

“We all know that a new referendum date has been set. We all know that a new law has been passed and therefore we need to destroy the ballots which were printed before. In order for us to have some transparency we decided to do it publicly so that the public can see that the destruction is taking place even before we go into referendum day.”

 

And for referendum day, new ballots are in the process of being printed under the new law. Besides media reps, the ballots books were inspected by a representative from the Department of Environment, and the Chief Magistrate, Sharon Frazer, both who acted as monitors along with police officers. The estimated cost of the now destroyed ballots is a little under fifty thousand dollars.

 

Josephine Tamai

“All the serial numbers will be shared with you all. You all will have the opportunity to sign off as to exactly what is being destroyed.  I believe that it is very important in terms of transparency because sometimes when people are not able to view things for themselves you hear all sort of things and people come up with their own ideas as to what exactly is happening. So in order for us to do it in this way is for people to see that yes, these ballots are being destroyed. These ballots will not be available on referendum day.”

 

On referendum day, it is expected that observer mission groups will monitor the process. According to the Chief Elections officer, Josephine Tamai, at least on international observer group has arrived in the country ahead of the May eight I.C.J. referendum.

 

Josephine Tamai

“I know that Commonwealth mission came in yesterday and so they are here. I know that CARICOM is going to come in very shortly. The other observer groups are basically local groups so they have been here from since then.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Talk to us about the importance of their role in terms of transparency.”

 

Josephine Tamai

“Well on May eight when the observers at the stations, they will be the persons at the polling and counting stations to observe the entire process all up until the counting. So they will be there to ensure that everything is going smoothly and to observe what is happening on referendum day.”

 

Hipolito Novelo, News Five.


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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