The re-registration of naturalized Belizeans of Guatemalan origin continues to be the subject of debate as the voter registration process continues. Last week, Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte said that those citizens who have renounced their Guatemalan nationality should be allowed to re-register. Minister of Immigration Godwin Hulse spoke with Love News and he too echoes this, despite admitting that the Belizean constitution clearly states that no citizen of a country that does not recognize the territorial sovereignty of Belize is allowed to obtain Belizean Citizenship. Minister Hulse further explained the situation.
Godwin Hulse, Min of Immigration: “From Independence, the constitution says that no person who is a citizen of the country that does not recognized the Independence and Territorial Integrity of Belize can be a citizen of Belize. Both governments embarked in those days on a renunciation program starting with the People’s United Party and continuing with the UDP as government. The renunciation program involved people signing and renouncing that citizenship. That document together with the passport were handed to the Guatemalan Embassy that accepted them and they did that as representatives of their government so that process was deemed to be satisfactory. Those persons became Belizeans;lived here, had children here and on and on. Very recently, the Guatemalan government in their numerfications suggested that nobody can renounce. Well that is a whole new ball game. Even if you renounced, you would have to get a citizenship first because they would not accept any of their citizens being stateless and for your information and the public, the Guatemalans consider all Central Americans as Guatemalans under their constitution, that is all a part of their Fort. What we did in the Immigration Department is immediately cease and people who are living here from Guatemala can become permanent residents and remain permanent residents and remain permanent residents until this matter is settled so there is no question that Guatemalan citizens now, those ones, could become Belizeans. Those ones who are applying for registration. Now let’s go to the ones who were born there but of Belizean parents, who were born in Melchor etc. We can’t do anything about them, they are Belizeans and they are Guatemalans because born of Belizean parents makes you a Belizean at birth. We also can’t do anything of those born here of Guatemalan parents. They are also Guatemalans but they are also Belizeans because they were born here so we can’t do anything about that. So we can’t do anything about that. So it’s not just a blanket, Citizens who are Guatemalans who are becoming Belizeans , there are many who are both Guatemalans and Belizeans under those two categories. The category of registration is where there is a difficulty; not difficulty going forward because we are only keeping them as permanent residents until that matter is solved when it is solved. Those who had obtained citizenship before is a question that will need a lot of discourse because they are for all intent and purposes are Belizeans carrying Belizean documentation and as a Belizean, you are entitled to vote.”
Activist groups have, however, indicated that they intend to challenge the matter in court. The challenge is being led by BUFERHD, The Peace Movement, the Northern Territorial Volunteers,Belize Territorial Volunteers, BREDDA and Belize Diaspora Voting Rights from Los Angeles. Minister Hulse commented on the possible legal challenge.
Godwin Hulse, Minister of Immigration: “There is always a legal basis to challenge. That is the system under which we work. If you are disgruntled with anything, you go to court and what the court rules, the court rules. I will not pronounce on the ruling of the court before the court even has a chance to hear the case. I will not pronounce on whether they have a case or not. They have a right to bring a challenge to the Supreme court. That is their constitutional right and when they bring, the government will have to defend.”
According to the Minister, since Guatemala shifted its position on its citizens renouncing their Guatemalan nationality, the government of Belize has not been issuing nationality documents to Guatemalans for a couple years now.