Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2018. 2:28 pm CST.
By BBN Staff: Former Chief Executive Officer of the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute, Imani Fairweather, has publicly shared a letter she had penned in July to Godwin Hulse, the Minister of Immigration and Nationality, regarding the issue of the diaspora vote in the upcoming referendum.
In the letter, she indicated that she is reaching out because she is “deeply concerned about what appears to be a grave injustice.”
According to her, she is trying to understand, “…how is it that in 2018, just 37 years after our independence, our leaders have seemingly worked to enfranchise emigrants while shockingly have retained barriers which impair the ability for born Belizeans working or living abroad to remain engaged electorally.”
According to her, Belize has embraced concepts of economic citizenship and has been welcoming of migrants but has fallen behind in addressing the rights of our diaspora community.
“Some 93 countries worldwide allow diaspora to vote from abroad in the last place of residence,” she said.
But indicated that such is not the case in Belize.
“Belize shamefully falls in the bottom 23 requiring migrants to return home and prove residency status to vote,” she said.
According to her, the re-registration process excludes the diaspora and, “is at minimum a slap in the face after months of a Senate hearing which made plain the naked and excessive exploitation of Belizean citizenship.”
Fairweather concluded her letter by imploring Minister Hulse to, “table plans to address the anomaly and find ways to positively engage persons in country, in the diaspora, and across the political isle to build consensus and advance solutions for our inclusion.”
While Minister Hulse has not yet tabled any such plan, Kareem Musa, the Area Representative for Caribbean Shores, has made a bold move.
Last week he delivered a bill to the National Assembly which if approved will allow Belizeans in the diaspora to vote in the April referendum.
Musa had hoped that the matter would have been discussed in the last sitting of the House of Representatives.
However, the matter will be discussed early next year.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow did not openly oppose the bill but advised Musa to fine tune it in time for the next sitting of the House of Representatives.
He said, “There is no difficulty, as I understand, members on this side of the House, with allowing Belizeans who have some kind of family address in this country to register, so that they might be able to vote in the referendum.”
Fairweather’s letter has already began to attract support including that of former United Democratic Party (UDP) Senator, Deborah Mencias McMillan.
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