Posted: Thursday August 18th, 2016. 6:08 p.m CST
By Aaron Humes: Take it to the people! That is the advice of the Belize Progressive Party (BPP) on issues ranging from the recent decision on Section 53 of the Criminal Code, to legalization of marijuana use, to signing the United Nations Anti-Corruption Convention.
In terms of background, the 2008 referendum on electing the Senate, the only one in Belize’s history, was successful but non-binding. Neither the Oceana effort to tackle offshore drilling nor the Elvin Penner recall referendum passed the petition stage.
So according to the B.P.P. Political Leader, Patrick Rogers, the “People’s Referendum,” like Oceana’s in 2013, will not be legally constituted, but the outcome will be the will of the people, which Government cannot afford to ignore.
The B.P.P., according to Treasurer Robert “Bobby” Lopez, will go to its financiers to raise approximately three hundred thousand dollars for the costs of the proposed “People’s Referendum.” Rogers also told reporters that depending on the result, they may lobby to have these questions added to the proposed referendum on attending the International Court of Justice to resolve the Belize-Guatemala claim: that issue is one of those listed in the Referendum Act as requiring a referendum of the Belizean people for approval.
Meanwhile, Rogers noted that the United States uses referenda at the city, council and state level to glean the people’s thoughts on important social and governance issues.
But given that the judiciary has a role to play in interpreting the law and advising on the rights of persons who feel infringed upon as Caleb Orozco did, would a popular referendum wind up infringing on the court’s determination? Rogers says no, and explains why the Chief Justice’s ruling is right, but also wrong: it relies too much on the UN-sponsored conventions that sets policy on same-sex activity without consultation with the people.
The Belize Progressive Party says it is disappointed by the decision of the Government not to appeal the Section 53 ruling, feeling that this would have given time to have the people formally weigh in. According to party treasurer Bobby Lopez, Belize cannot afford to look like “punks” regionally and the BPP will ensure this is not so through the referendum.
The party leader presented his own, moderate position while criticizing the Prime Minister for refusing to give his. He stated that because of his personal morality, he believes that homosexuality is a life choice, not a fundamental human right. Ultimately, however, it is the collective view that matters.
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