Redistricting Exercise Sparks Political Rift and Potential Legal Battle in Belize
The redistricting exercise has recently come to the forefront of the news because of its implications for residents and politicians. A recent report of proposed changes has been making its rounds. Yesterday it resulted in the Area Representative for the Port Loyola Division, Gilroy Usher Senior, stating that he will refuse to bend to the idea of splitting up his constituency. The idea was also rejected by the Leader of the Opposition, Moses “Shyne” Barrow, who believes the government is using the exercise to gerrymander the existing constituencies. The issue is reportedly causing a political rift in both the PUP and UDP, and many believe the matter will end up in court. Today, Cayo South Area Representative, Julius Espat, weighed in on the issue and said he believes politicians should have no say in the process.
Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “With all due respect to the Honorable Gilroy and to the Leader of the Opposition it is not a political decision. If it is supposed to be done properly, it has to be done that it can withstand legal ramification because no matter what you do, it will end up in court anyway. So to avoid any political gerrymandering keep the politicians out of it and have the legal experts, international and local legal experts analyze it to make sure that the decision that is being made can withstand scrutiny, that’s the hope. My point of view, this is just my point of view, is that we should not increase the number of elected members in the House. 400,000 people, 31 enough. I represent between, right now it’s climbing I’m about 7,500 voters and I do it fairly well. So if we broke it down to what 5,500 per constituency, you’re there at 31. There is no need to increase. I’ve heard some want it increased it to 33, some want to increase it to 35, I’ve even heard 45. Politically, the Belizean people don’t want more politicians. It’s from Belize. Cayo district there is absolutely no way you can get away without increasing the seats in the Cayo district. It’s what has to happen. Stann Creek West the same. So, these are realities that the politicians could swallow, spit out, cry, bawl, rail up, that has to be achieved. We have to have equity. The leader has a representative in the committee. Government has a representative in the committee. Social partners and the technocrats have a representative. So, you know how the leaks happen? They happen quite often. So everybody knows what’s happening and so they start chatter and then man says, “oh you’re breaking up my are so I’m not happy.” In Cayo South, I know I will have to be cut. There’s no way. I am one of the largest in the area. Geographically I am the largest.”
Troy Gabb, Host, The Morning Show: But you won’t be eliminated, that’s the difference.
Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “Well if I have to go somewhere and…
Troy Gabb, Host, The Morning Show: Because if you are like a Port Loyola, like Usher he would be…..
Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “But you don’t own it. No area rep owns the area.”
Troy Gabb, Host, The Morning Show: But I mean he would be eliminated by virtue of…
Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “It’s not eliminated. If you are seeking high office, you are putting your name out. What, people do is lazy you know? They don’t want to convince somebody that they are the best option. And in Belize City, because of the small, and I could tell you this both political sides they have manipulated small constituencies. So they love that. They want, boss they’re dealing with 800 votes and I’m dealing with deal with 7500 votes? With 7500 people, I have to have system in place, I have to have a structure in place, I have to empower local leaders, I have to work with them, I have to listen to them, I have to respect them, I have to inspire them, they have to inspire me. That’s why it happened. Now if you’re not willing to put in that work and you just want to sit back and say, well I’m going to stay with what I got, then it’s not a fair break up.”