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COME HELL OR HIGH WATER To the Referendum We Go!

COME HELL OR HIGH WATER To the Referendum We Go!
February 22
16:34 2019

Prime Minister Dean Barrow said he is not willing to entertain the idea of delaying the upcoming referendum for any reason. This despite public concern and a protest on Monday by the Opposition due to the backlog and difficulty many Belizeans have faced trying to get their birth documents from the Vital Statistics Unit, leaving many unable to vote in the critical referendum.

“We are poised and ready to go and nothing short of a natural disaster ought to detain the holding of that referendum,” Barrow told the media when speaking on the matter on Thursday. Barrow conceded there have been institutional problems which have plagued the Vital Statistics Unit but said he was confident that changes made within the unit by the Attorney General have been sufficient for all citizens to access whatever documents they may need before the March 12 deadline for registration to participate in the April 10 referendum.

Barrow noted that the Attorney General has even agreed to make exceptions in the case of people who are unable to provide any kind of legitimate documentation by accepting affidavits signed by credible witnesses positively identifying the applicant. He added, however, that there are indeed some cases in which no documentation can be sourced to prove the applicant’s Belizean nationality.

“I’m not going to dismiss anyone’s arguments and contentions,” Barrow said, acknowledging that the discussion on taking Guatemala’s territorial claim on Belize to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has devolved into political posturing with the UDP taking an official ‘Yes’ position and the opposition PUP taking an official ’No position. “There is a degree of politics which has come into this thing, which I regret but I don’t want to play that particular game.”

Barrow also addressed criticism that the public education campaign leading up to the referendum has not effectively reached ‘grass roots’ people. “I think there’s been more than enough material out there for them to understand and I think they are understanding,” he said, adding that he has no doubts about proceeding with the referendum.

The PUP staged a protest on Monday in front of the Vital Statistic Unit complaining of the difficulty many residents from southern Belize have faced in getting their birth certificates. The party also claimed that the rural residents were being blackballed from receiving their documents because the government believes they are more likely to vote against taking the claim to the ICJ.

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