Five days ago, the Elections and Boundaries Commission announced that PUP Senator Collet Montejo was appointed as the fieldwork supervisor as the redistricting exercise gets underway. Montejo, according to a press release, will supervise the gathering and providing of all information for the consideration of the Re-Division Task Force. That task force, which Montejo is also a part of, is to make recommendations to the commission who in turn will report to the National Assembly its proposals for boundary redistricting. The United Democratic Party (UDP) today had two issues with Montejo’s appointment. Leader of the Opposition, Moses “Shyne” Barrow explained that because Montejo is openly partisan, Montejo is likely to facilitate a process of gerrymandering. Here’s how he explained it.
Moses “Shyne” Barrow, Leader of the Opposition: “Further threats to our democracy you look at the appointment of Collet Montejo. Of all the skilled and qualified, objective, professionals to lead the redistricting process the People’s United Party would appoint their deputy secretary general, their current PUP Senator and expect that normal citizens regardless of political affiliation would not find that reprehensible that is what is reprehensible. Not disinviting dictators from a summit with democratic loving nations. What is reprehensible is another assault on our democracy with the attempt to jerrmander and disenfranchise Belizeans. Because Mr.Montejo cannot be seen as an objective person that wants to accomplish the task of redistricting which is equal representation. Mr.Montejo is as partisan as it comes and that is why the Elections and Boundaries Commission was set up to transcend politics.”
The other issue the party had is that Montejo cannot participate in the electoral process in this manner and still hold his seat in the Senate. Chairman Michael Peyrefitte called for Montejo to resign from the Senate immediately.
Michael Peyrefitte, Chairman, UDP: “It says “no person shall be qualified to be appointed as a Senator who” and we’ll go to f “is disqualified for membership of the House of Representatives by any law by reason of his holding or acting in any office the functions of which involve 1. any responsibility for or in connection with the conduct of any election or 2. any responsibility for the compilation or revision of any electoral register. This man has taken on a job to do that exact same thing. He needs to resign from the Senate if he wants to do that job. If you hold a position that influences the electoral process in any way you’re not qualified to hold a seat in the Senate. If you are already a Senator you have to vacate your seat if you then take up a job that has you with a huge influence on the electoral process. So he has to pick one. Either you’re going to be the field supervisor for the redistricting and the redistribution of the electors from different constituencies or you go on to be a Senator. You can’t be both.”
The media asked Cabinet Minister Jose Mai about this matter yesterday and he said the process will be transparent.
Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Enterprise: “There is a committee I think who is heading this but we will do it in a transparent manner and I think there’s also a member of the UDP on the committee if I’m not mistaken so everything should be done in a transparent manner. You will understand that this is votes at the end of the day it’s votes and it is very clear to me that the opposition will say something about it and it’s expected you know they have to look after their interest too they want to win votes too but we will ensure that it be done in a transparent manner.”