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Oil Men Annoyed. OCEANA Calls for Referendum to Ban Offshore Drilling in Belize

Article Summary:

OCEANA of Belize has gathered and delivered to the Government of Belize a petition with sufficient signatures to force the government of Belize to hold a special referendum on the sole issue of offshore oil drilling. The voting date is tentatively scheduled for the March 17, 2012 during the Municipal Elections. Meanwhile Belize officials are leveling allegations against OCEANA of using corrupt means to gain the petition signatures.

Photo Credit: Belize Times

Original Article Text From The Belize Times via:

Referendum on Offshore Oil Drilling Moves Forward, Even with Issues

The issues with regard to a potential and permanent ban on future oil drilling in offshore and protected areas of Belize have been simmering for months and years now, and thanks to a gutsy move spearheaded by the Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage, is now in process to be put to a vote via a planned referendum.

At a press conference held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel last week Thursday, December 8th, the Coalition via their representatives [OCEANA in Belize Vice-President Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Coalition Coordinator Tanya Williams-Thompson and Vice-President of Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action (COLA) Geovanni Brackett] announced that, after delivering their petition of 18,000 signatures to the Governor-General of Belize, Sir Colville Young, a planned referendum on the sole issue of offshore oil drilling is scheduled for the Municipal Elections, March 7th , 2012.

A press release sent out by the Coalition yesterday informs that the signatures were delivered by the Governor-General to the Chief Elections Officer, who will then vet and inform him: a) whether or not all signatures are genuine and b) whether a ‘threshold’ of 10% of the voting populace has been met. Should that be the case, the Governor-General will issue a ‘writ’ declaring the date, time and place(s) where the referendum will occur.

The Coalition has offered that the question they plan to pose be ‘Do you agree to oil exploration and drilling offshore and in its protected areas?” But underneath it all, new issues have come to the fore with regard to how much actual support, at least in the internal sense, the Coalition has.

The Ya’axche Conservation Trust, led by their Executive Director Lilsel Alamilla, resigned their membership in the Coalition after Alamilla dissented on the ‘strategic value’ of having a referendum, particularly in an election year such as this one. At the conference, Matura-Shepherd, accused Alamilla of working in tandem with the UDP Government to stop up the process, and described her organization as “Government’s attack-dog”.

There’s also a question of where exactly the Association of Protected Management Organizations (APAMO), an umbrella conservation group, presently stands as their leadership, represented by Edilberto Romero, wasn’t even at the front table of the conference. Romero, in an interview, clarified that the group does stand with the Coalition, but that there are some ‘issues’ (supposedly a pre-referendum poll the group wanted the Coalition to take) that have prevented them from supporting it 100%.

Add in their small ‘machinery’ to get out votes (particularly in the ‘grassroots’ communities that will likely be affected by this), and it doesn’t seem to look good for the Coalition as of now. But that doesn’t immediately matter to them, as they are placing all hopes that citizens, without cash bribes, will cast their votes and say ‘NO’ on this burdensome issue.

Link to Original Article:

From The Belize Times

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