Oceana Demands Progress on Offshore Oil Referendum 67 Days After Petition Delivery

Oceana Demands Progress on Offshore Oil Referendum 67 Days After Petition Delivery

It has been sixty seven days since Oceana delivered the petition signatures to the Governor General with an aim to trigger a national referendum on offshore oil activities now and in the future.  Oceana has released a statement, reminding the people and the government that the verification process of the more than 22 thousand signatures should have been completed by now.  Back in June when the petitions were delivered, Oceana’s Vice President, Janelle Chanona, told the media that they had launched the petition in November 2022, and that they had done their very own verification.  

Janelle Chanona, Senator for NGOs: “When we launched the signature drive exercise in the middle of November that was certainly a guiding way point if I could call it in this because it was imperative for us that all signatures be accepted and what we have done in the six months since then has been to vet, confirm by phone calls, everything that we could think of to do. We’ve even built in a rudimentary but effective system to make sure there are no arbitrary disqualification of the signatures. It is a fact that 22,000 Belizeans have signed. We know we have gone through the system and to be perfectly honest, we were doing so without the benefit of a master list of verifying that those persons that provided that information are registered Belizean voters and so we can confidently say we have exceeded the legally required threshold of the 10% to trigger the referendum. This has been a way of life for the last six months and truly a labor of love but I dare say we would do it all over again. This is how much we believe in this cause. But I think in terms of lessons learned, certainly as a conservationist it was not lost that this is so much paper. And we want to meet the legal requirements so we met those. But I think truly it is historic that we’ve gotten to this point but it really should be a regular exercise. We should be going through referendum far more often than we have been. There are so many issues that I think the Belizeans want to participate in. We have the technology, we have the legislation, electronic signatures have just been accepted. We can create a far more user friendly, far more regular process for referenda so that we can get the public. As you know, the Referendum Act have the results are only advisory but it’s really important for the public.”

 

The release from Oceana quoted Section 2(4) of the Referendum Act that states that, “on receipt of the petition from the Governor-General, the Chief Elections Officer shall proceed with due expedition to verify the signatures on the petition and return the petition to the Governor-General as soon as practicable but not later than two months from the date of receipt of the petition, with certificate as to whether or not the petition had been duly signed by the requisite number of electors as specified in sub-section (3).  The nation now looks forward to the Chief Elections Officer’s certificate indicating whether the threshold has been met.”  End of quote.  Our newsroom tried reaching the Chief Elections Officer but those attempts were fruitless.

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