Belize Peace Movement Continues to Oppose Representation of the Peoples Bill at House Committee Meeting

Belize Peace Movement Continues to Oppose Representation of the Peoples Bill at House Committee Meeting

The Belize Peace Movement continues its rejection of the Representation of the Peoples Bill.  The group’s rejection was once again expressed this morning at the House Committee Meeting held at the National Assembly in Belmopan.  Robert Lopez of the BPM says that over the last twenty years the value of each vote has deteriorated and we are now at a point where many do not realize what every vote means in an election.  His remarks came following this morning’s meeting where he presented seven main points to the committee.  Among the seven are the constitutional obligation of the government, and the urgency of the redistricting exercise.  Perhaps the most salient point has to do with the uselessness of the current redistricting draft document that Lopez says needs revising to make the deviation within an acceptable rate.  In other words, he is saying that the proposed redistricting will still see some divisions not being as equal as possible in terms of the registered voters.

Robert Lopez, BPM Spokesperson: “This bill, if implemented, would maintain and effectively normalize extreme malapportionment, which is antithetical to democratic governance and violates our fundamental right to vote in free and fair elections. In short, it is ethically unjustifiable. Such malapportionment results in critical consequences for the equitable distribution of wealth, resources and opportunities for Belizeans and for the policymaking in Belize. We have currently 17 months to the November of 2025 when elections should be called, not included the extra 90 days that the Constitution allows for after the completion of a five year term. So in our opinion, the Prime Minister is right. If they move quickly, they could still do it and that’s our position. On the point of international norms and standards, we wish to make reference to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights Article 21-3 which states, quote, “The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of the government. This shall be expressed in periodic elections which shall be by universal, equal and secret suffrage.” Section 6 further states “Every voter is entitled to exercise his or her right equally with others and to have his or her vote accorded the equivalent weight to that of others. Similarly, as a member of the Organization of American States and signatory to the Inter-American Democratic Charter we have a right to democracy and our elected government has an obligation to promote and defend it. It is therefore noted that the very OAS election observation report of 2012 and 2015 brought to the attention of the government of the day, that time, that redistricting was constitutionally necessary.”

Also appearing before the House Committee this morning with presentations on the Redistricting issue were representatives from the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Phillip Willoughby on behalf of the United Democratic Party.  Happening simultaneously with the house committee meetings was a protest outside the National Assembly.  In an interesting turn of events, indications are the protest was partly funded by the UDP.  Here is how one supporter, Alden Tasher explained it.

Alden Tasher, Supports Redistricting: “We have close to a hundred people here today who came for the support of the redistricting and I’d also like to say thanks to our party leader who agrees with the redistricting as well and also Ms.Tracy Panton who has helped me to mobilize the people up this side. As you know as we all know that we need fair ministerial powers across the country, it’s very important to have fair ministerial powers across our nation. Well I feel it very important to join hands with the Belize Peace Movement. As you know they are the ones who came out and fighting for the redistricting so I feel comfortable helping them so I don’t mind.”

Reporter: What did you make of the Prime Minister’s comments when he stated that we have to do the elections next year and we don’t know if we’ll have time to do this redistricting exercise ? 

Alden Tasher, Supports Redistricting: “Well I hope the Prime Minister will find it in his heart to push the redistricting through because it’s something that will benefit the country so I hope he finds it in his heart to go ahead and do the redistricting.”

The House Committee also met this morning to discuss the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill and the Disabilities Bill.

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