Oceana Awaits Government Decision on Offshore Drilling Referendum
Oceana and the rest of Belize are awaiting feedback from the government on whether a referendum will take place regarding offshore and onshore oil drilling. The last we had heard was that the government had forwarded the matter to the Office of the Attorney General. Yesterday, Prime Minister John Briceno gave a brief update on the matter.
John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “I don’t think it’s a matter of willfully ignoring it but we felt that since we already have the People’s Constitutional Commission ongoing right now that that would be the best place to be able to address it through the PCC since they were asking even for the amendment of the Constitution. So we felt that it would have been best to do that. But what we’ve done as a compromise to them we’re working on an amendment basically as what we did with the marijuana issue that whenever the day comes that we want to do any kind of exploration in the sea or the ocean, it depends on which word you want to take, that then we will then have a referendum. I’ve not seen the exact wording but pretty much that’s what the Attorney General just briefly shared with me. And I think tomorrow… No, probably next week he will then bring the actual proposal and the wording.”
Reporter: Is this a rule of law issue though? Because I know your government, under Said Musa is the one who first implemented this referendum legislation and the law does not make a provision for a review as you all are doing and make us look at it another way. The law says within X number of days a referendum is triggered if the signatures are certified. You all are playing with the law, it would appear.
John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize: “Absolutely not. It just so happened that at this moment we have appointed by law, voted in National Assembly the People’s Constitutional Commission. And so we felt why go through that? Why spend millions of dollars in a referendum when the People’s Constitutional Commission is going around countrywide getting recommendations from the different groups of people, different communities, and I hope that within a year or so, I think they have probably at least six months, they can come up with a bunch of recommendations to myself as the Prime Minister as to the way going forward. So I think it was just the opportune time. It’s just a matter of timing and that this happening at the same time. Obviously if the PCC was not in effect at that moment then the law is allowed. We probably would have to go ahead with the referendum.”
It was back in June that Oceana Belize delivered over twenty-thousand signatures to the Governor General of Belize Dame Froyla Tzalam, aimed at triggering a national referendum on offshore oil activity.