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April 2, 2019

The ICJ Fever: Countdown to historic referendum 

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Posted: Tuesday, April 2, 2019. 9:55 am CST.

By BBN Staff: With only 8 more days to Belize’s historic national referendum, the public awareness and education campaign as well as the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns have intensified.

On April 10, 2019, Belizeans will vote in favor of or against taking Guatemala’s claim on Belize’s territory to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for final resolution.

Belizeans will be asked:

“Do you agree that any legal claim of Guatemala against Belize relating to land and insular territories and to any maritime areas pertaining to these territories should be submitted to the International Court of Justice for final settlement and that it determine finally the boundaries of the respective territories and areas of the Parties?”

Proponents of the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to the ICJ campaigns are engaged in relentless campaigns countrywide.

The ICJ fever has also caused division and shifts in Belize’s political landscape.

Former Senator of the Opposition, People’s United Party (PUP) and attorney, Lisa Shoman is representing the Government of Belize in a constitutional challenge filed by the PUP requesting an injunction for the April 10th referendum. The PUP is being represented by attorney Eamon Courtenay.

Also notable is that Former Minister of Foreign Affairs under the former PUP administration, Assad Shoman joined forces for a sustained ‘Yes’ campaign under his newly formed Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Citizens for Defense and Sovereignty.

The ruling United Democratic Party (UDP) and their women’s group have publicly shared their support for a ‘Yes’ vote. However, Prime Minister Dean Barrow in his press conference held last week reiterated that Belizeans have the right and freedom to vote whichever way they see fit for Belize and the future of Belize.

For those Belizeans who weigh everything in the balance and decide to vote no.  That is your right, we absolutely will respect that.  I would wish it to be otherwise but it will not make you any less of a patriot than those who vote yes. Thank you,” Barrow said.

While, Leader of the PUP, John Briceno had initially gone on record stating that he will vote ‘Yes’, he then conducted a listening tour within his party leading him to shift gears and push for a ‘No’ vote.

But, has the ICJ fever gone too far?

Last night, Lisa Shoman shared a picture of a person who she claims posted a photo calling her a ‘traitor’ and a ‘tyrant’. Also noted in the post was a comment from the individual using threatening words.

Advocating for violence should be denounced in the strongest terms.

The ICJ issue is a sensitive and historic issue for all Belizeans, therefore campaigns must be carried out within the scope of the laws of Belize.

In addition, several Belizeans living in Southern Belize contacted BBN to share that they believe the education campaign failed due to what they describe as a ‘biased’ campaign using posters, banners, bus banners, t-shirts and campaigners persuading voters to vote ‘Yes’.

 “The real problem is that many will go to the polls and don’t know what it is about. They will vote Yes because they have been told this is what you should do,” the resident told us.

Campaign fevers aside though, the fact is that ultimately Belizeans have the power to decide whether or not to take the claim to the ICJ for final settlement. If Belizeans vote ‘Yes’, then we follow the procedures at the court and if we vote ‘No’, then negotiations must continue.

BBN encourages all Belizeans to devote time to seek information, and when you ink your fingers on April 10, 2019, vote your conscience based on the facts provided and not based on what your party is telling you.

And finally, please do not accept any money to vote either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, as the way things seem to be going, vote buying seems likely to find its way into the referendum process.

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