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Sep 8, 2020

Indian Students Registering to Vote Raises Eyebrows

Indian Student

Registration to vote in the November general elections is ongoing; the closing date is expected to be known once the date for elections is announced.  So there is a frenzy at offices around the country. This morning long lines snaked outside the Election and Boundaries offices in Ladyville. Medical students mostly from India were lining up to register. As nationals of the Commonwealth there are provisions in the law allowing them to vote; but the sight of U.D.P. operatives holding their passports, attracted attention. Here is Hipolito Novelo with a report.

 

Hipolito Novelo reporting

The Elections and Boundaries office in Ladyville was busy today, as expected since this is an election year and the deadline to register to vote in November is coming up soon.

But the long lines at this office comprised  students from India who are currently studying at The Central America Health Sciences University Belize Medical College. It is an unusual sight which has raised eyebrows particularly those from the PUP’s Standard Bearer for Belize Rural Central Dolores Balderamos Garcia.

 

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, PUP Standard Bearer, Belize Rural Central

Dolores Balderamos Garcia

“What has happened is that in a desperate attempt because we are getting on the last days in which you can register to vote they are bringing en masse the Indian students from the Central American university. Basically, the law as it stands now which we will definitely have to amend, is that Commonwealth citizens once they are in the country for a year they can register to vote.”

 

So it is not illegal for these students to register to vote. The Elections and Boundaries officials responsibilities is to ensure that the documents for these twenty-plus students are in order, that they have been in the country for  no less than twelve months as the law requires. They do so by checking their passports, each and every page. And once that is confirmed, these students are eligible to vote. Balderamos-Garcia however is saying that these students have no permanent connection to Belize.

 

Dolores Balderamos Garcia

“I believe that one of the first orders of business of a new government would be to amend that law. That commonwealth citizens will have to have a greater connection to Belize in order to register to vote my suggestion would be at least four or five years.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“What usually happens with these Indian students they finish their studies here?”

 

Dolores Balderamos Garcia

“My understanding is that they come to this country for mo more than two years and then they leave.”

 

This student has been in Belize since 2016.

 

Indian Student

“I go to Central America Sciences University.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“How long have you been going there?”

 

Indian Student

“I have been going there since three years.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“So you have been here in Belize for more than three years?”

 

Indian Student

“Yes.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“So you are registering now?”

 

Indian Student

“Regarding?”

 

Hipolito Novelo

Registration, you are registering to vote.

 

Indian Student

“Registering to vote.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“I just want to know why you are registering to vote now. Do you plan to live Belize? Do you plan to stay in Belize?”

 

Indian Student

“Well it depends if I like it then I will, If I don’t then I won’t.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“You like it so far? How have been here three years.”

 

Indian Student

“Yes sometimes people trouble us, sometimes no. It is okay, sometimes not.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“So how long have you been standing here in line?”

 

Indian Student

“I came yesterday also and it’s been like three hours since I came here.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Are you excited to register for one of the elections here in Belize?”

 

Indian Student

“Kind of but they way people are treating us I don’t think my vote will make a change because people won’t change.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“They are treating you a kind of way?”

 

Indian Student

“Disrespectful.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“How so?”

 

Indian Student

“They are telling me they will beat me up or something like that?”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“They don’t want you to register?”

 

Indian Student

“They don’t want me to because they don’t know their own country’s rule.”

 

Hipolito Novelo

“Are you planning to vote or just registering just in case?”

 

Indian Student

“Well I am just making sure that I will register because I didn’t know about it since long.”

 

But what caught our attention was this UDP operative, holding on to multiple passports belonging to the Indian students.

 

Dolores Balderamos Garcia

“This attempt by the UDP, I think they brought about twenty yesterday and they have another twenty add. Clearly, the UDP operative is right out there holding their passports. So you might even look at an element of human trafficking here.

They should not be getting ahead of people who have been in line legitimate from seven-thirty this morning. These people are coming along with the UDP operatives who are holding their passports and there has to be elements of coercion there. Even though the law literally allows it, this is a travesty that we have to highlight to the Belize people and we make sure that we change the law when the time comes.”

 

That UDP operative returned the passports to the students before we left.

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Hipolito Novelo.


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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