Posted: Friday, April 29, 2022. 11:10 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Approximately 20 thousand signatures collected nationwide will be presented to Governor-General Froyla Tzalam by a team led by Senator for the Churches, Moses Benguche on Tuesday, May 2, a month after the effort to open a petition to sponsor a referendum on the legalization of cannabis.
On Thursday afternoon, Pastor Louis Wade, serving as the public face of the churches’ movement, addressed reporters, stating that there is still some time to get collected signatures: “These 19,000 signatures have been vetted, and we’re approaching 20,000. So, we want to use the next couple of days to continue to shore up that buffer. And so, we expect any petitions that are outstanding to come in, so that they can be vetted on Monday, and presented along with all the petitions on Tuesday. …We wanted to be sure, and are now very confident of the petitions that we will submit. Because of Re-registration, because most people have their ID cards, and there’s also a vetting tool available on the Elections and Boundaries website, we’re confident that what we will submit will stand any true, rigorous, authentic, honest vetting.”
The minimum number of petitions needed to succeed is 10 percent of the voting population or 18,669 voters as of the end of March.
Wade also addressed public commentary by Government members which he said were “in an effort to frustrate the referendum process,” such as the referendum being too little, too late. The churches will hang their hat on an opinion published by the Bar Association which confirms that the referendum process is obligated to be carried out by the Government once the signatures are verified, but also notes that the result of a potential referendum is non-binding and the Government can still go ahead and deal with disaffected voters thereafter.
“What we are looking for is a government that is willing to listen to the voice of the people. So, we take one step at a time. But there is nothing negative in the opinion that the Bar Association placed forward; in fact, it is perfectly in line with what we knew going in,” Wade said.
But the churches are not about to rest with a potential referendum ahead. Wade challenged Belizeans to decide whether our democratic society is “open” or “closed.”
Wade told us the churches have plans and contingencies going forward for ‘every eventuality.’ The churches’ responsibility at this first stage is to “submit authentic, validated signatures of legitimate voters,” and so it has vetted, with tools from the Elections and Boundaries Department, to remove duplicate signatures, unregistered voters, and others. “We believe that everybody’s voice should be heard once they sign; that’s why we don’t give you totals, we just want you to know that the validated number passes the 10 percent threshold. Now, we look forward to the Elections and Boundaries doing the right thing; we look forward to the Government doing the right thing, and we’re not going to prejudge them, but we are going to have a plan for every eventuality.”
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