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Dec 8, 2011

Coalition pushes Offshore Drilling Referendum

After collecting eighteen thousands signatures in a nationwide campaign, the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage through OCEANA triggered a referendum on the question “Do you agree to oil exploration and drilling offshore and in its protected areas?” OCEANA is also requesting that the question be put to the people simultaneously with the March seventh municipal elections. The petition was handed over to the Governor General this morning. But will the government move on it? News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

The Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage brought holiday packages, wrapped but with bows. But they didn’t come bearing gifts to the media. The cards read “To the People of Belize.” According to the coalition members, they served those gifts to the governor general’s office at nine this morning to trigger the offshore drilling referendum.

Tanya Williams

Tanya Williams, Coalition Coordinator

“As per our petition forms, we have used section 2 (1b) of the referendum amendment act 2008 to embark on a process wherein the people of this country are triggering this referendum. We are calling for the following referendum question to be answered: “Do you agree to oil exploration and drilling offshore and in its protected areas referring to the offshore protected areas?”

Geovanni Brackett

Belize Coalition members from OCEANA and COLA delivered 18,000 signatures to the G.G., which represents more than 10 percent of the 170,620 registered voters.

Geovanni Brackett, Immediate Past Coalition Chair

“We have been gathering support from the very grass roots people who understand their livelihood is at risk. If we are to have an oil spill, god knows what will happen to our supper. And so we stand strong and united together—both grassroots professional organization who are under the umbrella of the Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage and I want to say that I am proud to be a member of this coalition; COLA is proud to be a member of this coalition; BTIA is proud to be a member of this coalition.”

Audrey Matura Shepherd

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Coalition Member-Oceana Belize

“The first thing is; we had to present the signatures to the governor general which we did at 9:10 this morning in Belmopan at Belize House. The governor general then hands over forthwith to the chief elections officer. And I must pause there to say that the governor general is not the one who will check it; he doesn’t have to vet it—he has absolutely no discretion. His role at this point is only one as a conduit of these signatures. When it is handed over for the chief elections officer, the role of the chief elections officer is very specific. They have up to two months maximum to verify that indeed those signatures do represent ten percent of the voting population, at the time we handed it in. So at the time we handed it in, the last known official list was dated thirtieth of September of this year and it’s one hundred and seventy thousand six hundred and twenty registered voters officially on that list. So just do ten percent of that. For a little comfort we added a couple more signatures. It doesn’t mean that before two months they cannot verify it and hand it in. Then the next process is upon them verifying that, they are to return it to the governor general who then is to issue a writ of referendum within three days. As the prime minister says now in his report, he will ask his supporters to support their position which is to go ahead and drill offshore and he says providing that there is some safety mechanism. So we said ok we will still reach out and dialogue so that we can be part of the dialogue in any technical thing. That never happened. It went a step further in June; this is what the prime minister says. He then told us that he will ask his supporters not to come out and vote.”

Kevin Mendez, Concerned Citizen

Kevin Mendez

“Directly we no wa got have nobody di come ya. Because we noh have nothing fi see—the corals dehn wah dead. People dah San Pedro; that wah be wah dead zone dah San Pedro. Once they start to drill ina this country and I dah wah person that strongly believes and stand up for what I believe fah. And if I have to, I don’t even know, some people wah get hurt. I am just being honest. Some people wah get hurt and I noh business da who. Dat is from Kevin Mendez.”

Audrey Matura Shepherd

“Building on what the Prime Minister has said in many other interviews and forums—that it is not legally binding—well then that does pose a challenge. But we’re not the government; we cannot force them to enforce either way. We can only hope that their goodwill will operate.”

Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

Also present at the meeting was BTIA Representative Efrain Perez.  B.T.I.A. now serves as the Coalition Chair.

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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4 Responses for “Coalition pushes Offshore Drilling Referendum”

  1. Earl Grey says:

    We must preserve our GREAT JEWEL BOX……our GIFT FROM GOD!!!


  2. Beautifulpempem says:

    I agree with you Earl..But this yah govament look like he no gat no listen to the ppl a Belize!!!
    Cyan wait fi mek he come out a pawah!!This Jewel is ours it should really be taken care of!!!Its our country we have a right to let thid=s drilling be stop immediatly

  3. Rene Rodriguez says:

    Unu PUP no tired a mess up this country? Unu just want to get in and continue to rape this country.
    You guys can´t survive without stealing. Learn to work.

  4. Butterfly says:

    I believe that as long as offshore drilling is done in a sustainable and careful manner, hey why not. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and this is mine. Many people don’t know this and many might think that this government is greedying up all the petroleum revenues but truth be told all revenues collected so far is what is making many public servants receive their monthly salary.

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