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May 9, 2019

Successful I.C.J. Referendum Results is an Overwhelming YES Vote for Belize

Belize City comprises ten constituencies with the south side being a traditional stronghold for the U.D.P. and north side normally polling in for the P.U.P. at General Elections.  The battle here was fought long and hard, but on Wednesday, the U. D. P. machinery cranked up and out-maneuvered the P.U.P. and the NO vote. At the end of the night, except for the Lake Independence area, the city was awash with a YES vote. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has a report.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: April 3rd, 2019]

“I am extremely disappointed by the ruling, but I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that we may have lost a battle; we will absolutely win the war.”

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

…and that victory has been earned in a manner which makes it extremely difficult for detractors to balk at the collective voice of the people.  Despite a few legal hurdles placed in the way of an ICJ referendum, government is successful in obtaining a yes vote.  The favourable outcome of the national vote on whether the age-old Belize/Guatemala territorial dispute should be taken to the world court for resolution paves the way for additional steps to be taken along that path.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Government will try to go to the National Assembly within a week, week and a half, two weeks at the most, to amend the Maritime Areas Act and then we lodge the notice of our formal, the result and our formal submission to the I.C.J. jurisdiction.”

 

…but getting here was no easy feat.  May eighth, 2019 was preceded by a lengthy public awareness campaign headed by the Referendum Unit, an arm of the Foreign Ministry responsible for educating the masses of Belizeans on the unfounded claim, as well as the likelihood of resolving the dispute at the International Court of Justice.  Referendum Day was a test of voters’ knowledge.

 

Gregory Moguel

Gregory Moguel, Voter, Caribbean Shores

“I personally think, I mean it’s been a long situation, many years, long before my time.  I would say that it was within my mother or my grandparents’ time that we have always had this issue with Guatemala trying to claim territorial rights.  We always hear that Guatemala is coming, Guatemala is coming.  I mean it’s time and opportunity now to set this thing to a rest where we decide whether we want to go at this situation now or we’ll go at it later, and so I think that it’s a good idea.  It’s a good thing that has been planned within the people of the past to put it forward for us to go and vote and make a decision, and to make the right decision.”

 

Gregory Moguel was part of an initial wave of voters to cast their ballots at Polling Area Three in Caribbean Shores at around seven a.m.  Throughout the course of the day, the ebb and flow across all ten constituencies in Belize City remained consistent, by established measures used to determine voter traffic.  In Lake Independence, arguably the largest electoral district of them all, even Area Representative Cordel Hyde had a hard time forecasting a turnout.

 

Cordel Hyde

Cordel Hyde, Area Rep, Lake Independence

“It’s always hard for me to predict how many people are going to come out.  We always try to push as hard as we can to get out a maximum amount of voters because ultimately you want as many people to vote as is possible.”

 

That notion held true in Queen Square, the prime minister’s constituency.  PM Barrow was not there when we showed up at mid-morning, but Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte, a card carrying member of the United Democratic Party, stood in for him and shared preliminary figures.

 

Michael Peyrefitte, Queen Square Division

“It’s been a slow trickle; nothing fires up the crowd like a general election so we didn’t expect that type of fervor this morning.  Then again, this is a far more serious issue.  So far our numbers still look, you know, solid.  We are 247 voted so far, up to eight o’clock, and we expect that those numbers would increase as the day goes by, not only increase naturally but grow percentage-wise.  We expect more people between eight and nine and more people between nine and ten.  So we figure Queen Square will get its usual numbers, anything around two thousand people today.”

 

At the end of counting later that evening, the overall turnout fell just shy of that number.  Queen Square, nonetheless, still managed to draw the most voters.

 

Michael Peyrefitte

Michael Peyrefitte

“This morning when I was interviewed by you and the Queen Square Division having two thousand, one hundred and seventy voters, I still said that I was expecting about two thousand which is very ambitious, around ninety percent.  We only, out of the 2170 we polled 1816 which is still eighty-four percent and even though that eighty-four percent may be the highest in the country and pretty high, I think it should have been a hundred percent.  Anything less than a hundred percent for me, on this particular issue is a disappointment because then this is one election, I believe, that any able bodied Belizean should have participated in.”

 

To get voters to the polls, both major political parties were instrumental in mobilizing supporters and drawing out voters.  In Pickstock, P.U.P. standard bearer Anthony Mahler led the charge in bringing out supporters of the ‘No’ vote very early.

 

Anthony Mahler

Anthony Mahler, P.U.P. Standard Bearer, Pickstock

“To me, this is like a dry run for an election, so it’s a mini-election for us and so we’re just on the ground moving around people.”

 

Hitting the ground running, Collet Area Representative and Deputy Prime Minister Patrick Faber took full advantage of his political machinery to meet the goal for his constituency.  His position on going to the I.C.J. comes as no surprise.

 

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Area Rep., Collet

“Today, I support the government’s position and I support the U.D.P.’s position as well, I make no secret about that.  The U.D.P. in this area has mobilized its forces to help to secure the vote that we believe is best for Belize and so I have my machinery in full effect out here today trying to get our voters out and trying to get them to participate.”

 

Going into a new date, after enduring the legal battles to which the prime minister alluded to following a successful injunction on April third, came with an air of uncertainty.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“People, I think, were already suffering from some degree of fatigue in terms of the constant bombardment with respect to the campaign, with respect to the advertising campaign from both sides and also given that there was a degree of uncertainty caused by the postponement.  We thought it important to say, “Look, let’s fix a new date there.”  That’s the only way to really reassure people that it’s happening and you’re soon going to be able to vote and to get this thing behind us and start afresh in hopefully a united fashion.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


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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