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Will Belizeans Abroad be allowed to Vote in the Referendum?

Earlier this year, the long-awaited re-registration process commenced and one of the requirement was that persons had to be living at their present address for at least two-months. This was met with much disdain since it automatically disqualify those living in the diaspora. However, there is a plan to table a bill in the National House of Representative in the hopes of allowing those in the diaspora to vote. Hubert Pipersburgh, the President of the Belize Citizen Abroad, explained earlier today why it is essential that those in the diaspora be given an opportunity to vote.

Hubert Pipersburg: “In anything like this I mean there’s always going to be some logistical concerns but I believe in this day and age where we have technology and we can verify anything we believe RoPA (Representation of People Act) says that you have two months domicile so in other words you have to be here two months before you register. For a lot of Belizeans living abroad who might want to participate and exercise their franchise in the referendum which is arguably one of the most important historical issues in our lifetime that is going to impact not only our national security and our national economic security as well so I believe that we have to really search deep and find and decide if we want all Belizeans, without regards to geography, would have a right to participate in this particular referendum. What we’re saying is that if you’re a Belizean we could create a special list that where Belizeans abroad can register to participate in the referendum.”

Sixty years ago, Belizeans were not allowed to vote; however, the Universal Adult Suffrage gave us the privilege to vote.  To date, seemingly more Belizeans are disheartened with exercising their right to vote and this is evident by the turnout at the election polls.  Therefore, the Belizean Citizens Abroad Association said they who are physically removed would be most enthusiastic about participating in the voting process.

Hubert Pipersburg: “With any issue there is always going to be some sort of apathy and that’s something we have no control over but that shouldn’t be a reason why we should not try to strive to make that possible to cast their ballot. I think that aside I can’t tell you that all Belizeans are passionate about voting or Belizeans are passionate about wanting to vote anywhere Because if you look at elections there is always going to be some sort of apathy from the electors. But I’m saying that if we can create a list of electors from the diaspora, separate from what we have for the re-registration, just for this particular issue I believe that we could have an opportunity to see whether or not this is something that is viable moving forward.”

PUP Caribbean Shores Area Representative Kareem Musa was unable to read the bill since it was a Special Sitting and not an Ordinary Sitting of the House. Nonetheless Musa spoke of his intentions.

Kareem Musa, Area Representative for Caribbean Shores

Kareem Musa, Area Representative, Caribbean Shores: “I owe an explanation to those members in our country and outside our country who were eagerly anticipating the presentation of a private Members Bill today and I don’t intend to go into that bill. Like I said Madam Speaker because I am familiar with anticipation. But I just wanted to give an update that it will be presented at the next ordinary sitting of the House as directed by your Ladyship. In addition to that Madam Speaker, a bit of good news on that point, I had the opportunity to consult with the Prime Minister in the chambers in the back and I don’t know if it’s the season Prime Minister or the blue shirt, I am certain it is none of the two. I think the Prime Minister genuinely recognizes the importance of not having Belizeans, of the fact that no Belizean no matter where in the world they live should feel disenfranchised or should feel deprived of the right to have a voice on this very important ICJ referendum that is coming up in April and so I gave an undertaking to the Prime Minister because I think we’re at the point where it’s important to look at all the nuts and bolts so to speak, the mechanisms that would have to go into this piece of legislation to ensure that it would work. So we had that discussion and I gave the undertaking to the Prime Minister and the Honorable House that I will follow up and to provide those nuts and bolts in the form of a schedule to the Representation of People Act that would allow for members of our Belizean community and country abroad to allow them to vote in this upcoming referendum.”

PM Barrow said he believed there is no issue with registering Belizeans who have a family address in Belize to vote in the referendum. They would have to come home.  He says the majority of Belizeans living in the country may want a referendum to say if they are pleased with such a decision. However, he said that to make it clear, that sympathy for the issue is not the same as commitment to the process and end product.