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NEAB Says They are Prepared to Go to Court

Church Senator, Bishop Moses Benguche intends to present more than 20 thousand signatures of Belizeans to Governor-General Froyla Tzalam as early as Tuesday. These are the people who want a referendum on the legalization of marijuana. The Churches said they have met the milestone to trigger that vote and even after the bill passed both houses of parliament, the National Evangelical Association of Belize insists that Belizeans should have a say. But even if the referendum happens, as the Bar Association says Government can still implement the legislation even if most Belizeans say no. We asked Pastor Louis Wade about the churches’ position on the matter if this ends up being the case.

Louis Wade, NEAB Member:Remember that in the first process, we asked Government for a referendum. We felt from the very beginning that though the church is adamantly opposed to legalisation of marijuana, we felt that in the final analysis, the people should decide. We tried to convince the Government of that. In fact, I looked at documentation going back to last year where the NEAB wrote the Prime Minister to give our position as evangelicals that we were adamantly opposed to legalisation and that we hope that the Government would not go in that direction. So I believe that Government still has the opportunity to do the right thing. So they should have called the referendum. They should have done consultations. They did not. The church has now triggered a referendum. The church is now triggering a referendum and I want to say that we have now over 19,000 Belizeans: religious, non-religious, churched, unchurched, professional, street, whatever you call it. 19,000 Belizeans. It’s no longer the church that’s saying we want a referendum you know? We now have almost 20,000 signatures. So we are looking for the Government to listen to the voice of the people and do the right thing. It’s never too late for that. We go one step at a time. If the Government chooses not to listen to the voice of the people then we sit and we discuss and we move forward.”

And while the referendum should advise Government and not bind lawmakers as the Bar suggests, Pastor Louis Wade says Government should be concerned about the impacts of a closed democracy. Here’s how he put it.

Louis Wade, NEAB Member:I believe that the bar association wrote, in two very powerful sentences, the difference between an open democracy and a closed democracy and I believe that Cabinet should take seriously the implications of a closed versus an open democracy.”

Again, the signatures will be presented to Governor-General right after the Labour Day weekend.