Redistricting Task Force Submits Report, Controversy Surrounds Belize City Constituencies
After many speculations surrounding the redistricting exercise have taken center stage, the Redistricting Task Force has submitted its report to the Elections and Boundaries Commission. Love News understands that the report was presented yesterday and is now being reviewed by the Commission, which consists of two representatives from both the Government and the Opposition. The task force’s report sought to construct a proposal to redraw the electoral map to strike a balance in electoral districts countrywide. Recent reports indicating that constituencies in Belize City will be amalgamated or separated have sparked controversy among both mainstream political parties. But Minister of Constitutional and Reform Political Henry Charles Usher says there is no final proposal that has been drafted.
Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service, Constitutional Reform and Political Reform: “The task force has been working, as I said, for the last 15 months or so and they are supposed to issue a report to the Commission. The Commission will then deliberate, debate, etc. on that report and then the final proposal will be made by the Commission and will be tabled in a National Assembly. So all of these discussions and criticisms that have come out in the last few days they’re all speculation because nobody has seen the proposal as yet. I’m not sure if the task force has submitted their report to the Commission but certainly all of these different criticisms and discussions and what you see on the media about this proposal and this, it’s all speculation. It’s all premature because we have not seen the final product yet and I think that’s important.”
Ernesto Vasquez, Host, The Morning Show: So what’s this about 31 constituencies are expanding it to 35?
Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service, Constitutional Reform and Political Reform: “All of that is speculation Ernesto. All of that is -“
Ernesto Vasquez, Host, The Morning Show: That is a suggestion. It might be a suggestion. I mean they’ve done all their work they suggested maybe this will happen and immediately –
Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service, Constitutional Reform and Political Reform: “Unless the task force has been leaking out their work to private citizens I’m not sure where this information is coming from. But certainly it will be important and I’ll be willing to come back here when the actual numbers come out so that we can drill down, we can dissect the numbers more but it’s all speculation for right now. Now there is a deadline, there is a deadline and the deadline for the Elections and Boundaries Commission to prepare their final proposal is the 15th of July of this year. So I think that’s important to understand. So I’m not sure when or if the task force has submitted their proposals to the Election and Boundaries Commission. It has to be very soon. Probably has happened already. I’m not sure. But the Election and Boundaries Commission will then have to deliberate and put together their final proposal.”
Minister Usher says that recent comments made by the Leader of the Opposition, Moses “Shyne” Barrow, were misleading and not accurate. Usher explained that the exercise is free of political interface and is in accordance with the Supreme Court’s ruling on the matter.
Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service, Constitutional Reform and Political Reform: “It is really, I think, and it’s misleading for the Leader of the Opposition to come out and try to say that this is being controlled by the ruling party because he has two members on the commission. The opposition has two members on the commission. They have the ability to debate whatever is proposed to them by the task force. Now, to talk about the work of the public officers and to criticize and to try to throw under the bus these public officers is really disappointing. These public officers have worked very hard. The task force has worked very hard since last March when they were appointed. They have been meeting regularly, they have been looking at the law, the case law, they’ve been on the ground making sure that everything is done properly. They’ve researched in terms of redistricting exercises in other countries so it has been a very comprehensive report, a comprehensive exercise that this task force has done. And then to come out now and try to throw all at work under the bus for the last 15 months, it’s really disappointing to hear. It’s not surprising. I mean, that’s what he does. But he really should understand that it’s not a political attack on another party you’re doing, you’re actually attacking public officers. They are the ones doing the work. They are the ones that are preparing this proposal. They are the ones doing the report that will be taken to the commission. So to say that it’s being controlled by one side is absolutely false. That’s a false narrative and he knows that but he just wants to get his five seconds of fame, it seems, that when he goes on television and makes those type of statements. And even so Ernesto, you know, it shows a lack of understanding on his part because he keeps saying that the smallest division, that’s the first division we should look at. Well, I wonder if he checked the voters list this week.”
Ernesto Vasquez, Host, The Morning Show: Is that pointing at you?
Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service, Constitutional Reform and Political Reform: “Well, the smallest division is his division, Mesopotamia. So I don’t know if he looked at his voters list. If he had checked the voters list this week the smallest division in the country is the Mesopotamia division.”
Ernesto Vasquez, Host, The Morning Show: That’s right.
Henry Charles Usher, Minister of Public Service, Constitutional Reform and Political Reform: “So it just shows a lack of understanding on his part.”
The Elections and Boundaries Commission is reportedly scheduled to meet on Friday, July 7 to discuss and examine the report.