Posted: Saturday, October 31, 2020. 8:16 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Less than two weeks before general elections, the Government of Belize insists that it is impossible to allow COVID-positive persons to vote in the November eleventh general elections, despite the threat of disenfranchisement in key constituencies.
Attorney General, Michael Peyrefitte, said it is a matter of law: quarantine regulations have the force of law and draw penalties for breaches. Moreover, he points out, attempts to allow COVID-positive persons to vote makes their balloting no longer secret as a matter of law – ironic, considering health professionals made a point of not giving him the list of positive persons and persons in quarantine and isolation because of privacy concerns.
“People can talk, people can speculate, but any responsible government has to make decisions. Those decisions are not always popular, but we have to do what is in the best interest of the public. And if people believe what we are doing is illegal, the courts are wide open; take your matter there. It’s not just PUP people who have COVID-19; UDP people have COVID-19 too. So, we would say it balances out; that the same amount of people who probably wouldn’t be able to vote for PUP can’t vote for UDP either. So, people who claim it is a political decision are just downright stupid. This is a health issue, and we are trying to make sure that the rest of us who don’t have it don’t get it. And we are trying to protect those very same persons who already have it to ensure that they are in a controlled environment where they can be cared for,” Peyrefitte further contended.
Separately, UDP leader Patrick Faber told reporters that he could not see, nor could Cabinet and the National Oversight Committee, any way of ensuring that these persons could vote without risking the safety of election workers, or their privacy, even with a proxy vote. He too cited the reasoning of Director of Health Services Dr. Marvin Manzanero in not releasing names due to privacy. “All who have said they ought to be given the right to vote have not given any concrete possibility in my view. The onus is on the government to ensure that the vast majority of our citizens are safe. What if it were tuberculosis or something that is highly contagious? Government is given the right and it is perfectly legal to keep separate and quarantine those who have infectious diseases and the laws right now permit that to happen. If you are a Covid positive patient, the law right now says that you ought to be confined and that you cannot mix with the regular folks.”
And, Faber added, the NOC honestly searched for ways and means across the region and found none, so they decided as a matter of what was best for Belizeans in the current situation. He added, “We have advised people time and time again, I think all Belizeans will accept that the biggest culprit in terms of the spread of Covid-19 for us is our own bad practices and so the decision has to be made in that context as well.”
More than 1,200 persons would be barred, but the Elections and Boundaries Department is preparing for any contingency including COVID-positive persons managing to vote, as it has no control over that aspect of the vote.
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