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#421011 - 11/04/11 02:27 PM Will Oceana get Offshore Drilling referendum?
Marty Offline

Friends of Belize, it seems, may not get its referendum but there is another group that has been seeking a referendum long before F.O.B. The Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage, which comprises of just about every environmental group, including OCEANA sought seventeen thousand signatures to push for a referendum regarding offshore drilling. Although the deadline has passed and the signatures have been collected, the PM says the environmentalists have not completed their part of the bargain.

Giovanni Brackett, Plus TV

“Does the moratorium on offshore drilling still stand?”

Dean Barrow

Dean Barrow

“What was agreed still stands. We had said that the area that was relinquished would not be put back out to bids until you and your cohorts could get this referendum done. Now you all haven’t kept your end of the bargain because implicit in that is that you would trigger the referendum. You say you have the signatures for months and months and months now and you haven’t done anything more. So we would be perfectly entitled to say the deal is off, but we won’t say that. The deadline has passed; we said we would give you three months or six months—long passed—and you’ve done nothing to progress this thing. But we are going to keep the status quo as it is; we are not going to put that out to tender. The area that was agreed with.”

Channel 5


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#421080 - 11/05/11 02:20 PM Re: Will Oceana get Offshore Drilling referendum? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

OCEANA challenges P.M. on referendum

At the Prime Minister’s Quarterly Press Conference, PM Barrow was asked about the status of the offshore drilling. On Thursday night we aired his response, in which he replied that Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage, under which OCEANA falls, hasn’t been able to maintain their end of the deal. According to the PM, the environmentalists have long passed the three to six months period, after collecting their signatures and have thus, overlooked the final act to trigger the referendum. Today Oceana’s VP, Audrey Matura Shepherd says that nowhere in the law states a time period, furthermore, she says PM Barrow has over time been very deceitful.

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Vice-President, OCEANA

Audrey Matura Shepherd

“The section of the law we’re using under the Referendum Act, it has nothing to do with the Prime Minister. He cannot give us time or take away times from us. If the Prime Minister really wanted to hold a referendum, Andrea you could look at the amendment that they made in 2008, the twenty-fifth of April it was presented in the house. And in it, there were two ways you can have a referendum, the National Assembly by Section two paragraph A, could’ve then on its own pass a resolution declaring that a certain issue is of or matter is of sufficient national importance that it should be submitted to the electors for their view through a referendum. And the law clearly doesn’t stipulate when we could start, how long we have to take to get these signatures and how shortly after we have to hand it in but the law does stipulate that when we hand it in to the Governor General, then the GG has to give it to the elections and boundaries office which has about two months to vet it and after they have given their okay within thirty days the G.G. has to call a referendum election. The law is clear on timing.

Yes we’ve looked at what has been said on the referendum. We’ve seen the Prime Minister move back and forth. And I think what made us consider how to move forward was the statement the Prime Minister made in his report in May of this year where he said that the government of Belize does not agree with what we are asking for—a band of offshore drilling. We’re not saying there shouldn’t be drilling anywhere. We are saying our offshore, our waters, and our reef areas, our atolls are too precious —let’s not drill there. and we are also asking that they do not drill in our national parks; the protected areas on land which are our watersheds. The Prime Minister made it clear in his report that he does not agree with that position and that his government will go ahead to put in their safeguards. But it didn’t stop there, he went a step forward—and this is the duplicity of this Prime Minister—and using his words that he likes to use, I think he is disingenuous because hear what he says in the Prime Minister’s Report: when that referendum does come I will ask you to support the government’s position and that you are to not vote for what we want. He even went a step further and said he will tell his supporters not to come out on referendum day. Can you imagine that? So people were saying so does that mean if we come out on referendum day that he will assume that we are not his supporters and we will lose our jobs and contracts and stuff like that. So amidst all of that discussion the ninth amendment came and we gave priority to that for the debate to occur and maybe one of the best thing that happened is that we saw really where the Prime Minister stands when it comes to an issue of a referendum and Friends of Belize was the real true test case. Mind you, he did say earlier that he will give us three months and that’s what you said he said. But like I said, it’s not his prerogative; it’s not his discretion. When you are elected as Prime Minister, you don’t become God.”

Channel 5


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#421081 - 11/05/11 02:22 PM Re: Will Oceana get Offshore Drilling referendum? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Coalition plans its next offshore move

And so where does that leave the Coalition? Well, Matura-Shepherd says that they are still collecting signatures, and as soon as the coalition prepares its position on the referendum, they will inform the public. But since there seems to be an impasse, we asked Matura-Shepherd, if there is sense of defeat?

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Vice-President, OCEANA

“No, I think just the mere fact that we made it a public issue has always been a victory. The mere fact that we were able within three months to get over ten percent is a victory. Where do we go from here? We really had put a pause on pushing the referendum for a while simply because apart from hearing the duplicitous way of talking by the Prime Minister, we realize that sometimes it is best to try and do things in a diplomatic way—let us try reach out, let us dialogue, let us see what we can compromise and put those off the table and then the things we can’t compromise, let’s come up with an action plan. As the Coalition to Save of Natural Heritage of which OCEANA is a part, COLA is a part and many other organizations are a part; we went through a reshuffling. The BTIA then held the presidency—at that time the BTIA representative was Major Lloyd Jones. Major Jones then in his capacity as chairman wrote the prime minister and basically said I want to meet with you; I want us to dialogue in my capacity as chairman. The prime minister through his secretary sends a forthright response saying basically: Prime Minister Barrow will not be able to meet with you in this capacity, full stop. He says GOB’s position is clear. You must proceed with your referendum and government will proceed with the work of the ministry of natural resources in elaborating safeguards to govern exploration offshore and natural parks. What that means is that he is saying plain I don’t care what unu say, I don’t even want talk to unu, I not even wah acknowledge unu except when ih want throw snide remarks like he did to Giovanni. All I will do is I’ve made up my mind and this is what we have. So it tells you clearly that we’re being taken for a fool. So you are telling us hold a referendum when obviously no matter what the results of the referendum, you’ve made up your mind? Man this is a god complex we’re dealing with here. This is amazing. So I would then say I the prime minister is as genuine as he says and for the people as he promotes himself, let the people’s voice speak. What you afraid for P.M.? The reason the Prime Minister is able to speak like that and laud his superiority over others is because he know that on the twenty-fifth of April when he presented this amendment in the house, it was never about giving people a say because it is not legally binding. If he is really serious about making the people have a say, I challenge him to amend the constitution and put in the constitution the need for a referendum on these type of issues and make the decision of the people legally binding. Then I would believe he really wants to hear the view of the people. I think the issue of the referendum is really an issue that in itself is of national importance. I think we should start a petition that requires that the people of this country let the government know that we want a referendum in the constitution; that we want our referendums binding. I remember talking to Honorable Minister Boots in which he said if anyone would start such a petition that he would support it. So I am publicly saying that he said it to me so that I can quote him to it. And I will end by saying and using the language again of the Prime Minister in the parliament when this referendum act was amended, what really happened there is like the Prime Minister says; in this case, the amendment was an ass and those who amended it were the asses. Since that is the language we can now use, I feel very free to use it and turn it back on them. And so my challenge remains, let us really have legally binding referendum, let the people really have a voice, let us raise the level of discussion, let us educate and enlighten our people about the issues so that they make right choices.”

Channel 5


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#423576 - 11/29/11 02:02 PM Re: Will Oceana get Offshore Drilling referendum? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

OCEANA taking drilling to referendum

With OCEANA at the forefront of a petition to trigger a national referendum on oil drilling, the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage collected the required seventeen thousand signatures. Government, however, disregarded the success of the campaign and chose not to take the issue to a vote, claiming that Oceana did not move the issue forward. Since then OCEANA has been quiet, but its Vice President in Belize, Audrey Matura Shepherd, says they continued working behind the scenes while the ninth amendment and crime dominated the airwaves. According to Matura- Shepherd, the referendum is back on the radar, whether GOB facilitates it or not. She explained on this morning’s Open Your Eyes that the law allows for a referendum to be held through the Governor General’s office and Chief Elections Officer.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Vice President, OCEANA Belize

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“If the government so badly to have its own referendum, they could have immediately gone to the House and passed a resolution. That is the first mean; they didn’t do that. So if they didn’t do that they don’t have power over a referendum on the issue of oil—they can still do it before they dissolve parliament next week, they can still do it this week and say quickly resolution we’re saying there should be a referendum on the issue of oil and say what the question is. So that aside, what happened we sued subsection two to say we will call the referendum, we will trigger the mechanism to establish a referendum. It’s a people’s movement. Once it’s a people’s movement the government has absolutely no say. This is the section we used, subsection B; Section two one B where we are the ones triggering it. It doesn’t say anything about the government or the prime minister.”

Marleni Cuellar

“So you present it to the governor general.”

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“We have to present it to the governor general and the governor general must forthwith present it to the Elections and Boundaries. The governor general has absolutely no discretion other than to say one we give it to the governor general the law is clear.”

Marleni Cuellar

“And you have at least ten percent of registered electors.”

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“See it says “where a petition is presented to the governor general in the forgoing provisions—meaning here—the governor general shall forthwith refer the petition to the chief elections officer for verification of the signatures of the petition and for certification that at least ten percent of the registered electors in the entire country—because we’re using the entire country—have in fact appended their signature to the petition”. So the governor general noh have wah discretion fi seh well I noh like the way your petition deh, I noh like—there’s no discretion. And then the law goes on to say that the chief elections officer has two months, no later than two months so it could be less than two months that they need. And afterwards they give a certificate to the governor general and say here there is ten percent of the voting population or the registered voters.”

Marleni Cuellar

“Is that the next move that the Coalition will be taking?”

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“We hope so. We will announce it early next week.”

Channel 5


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#424475 - 12/07/11 03:03 PM Re: Will Oceana get Offshore Drilling referendum? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Coalition Moves To Trigger Referendum

The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage will be holding a Press Conference on Thursday - and 7news has confirmed that they plan to announce that they are ready to trigger a referendum on offshore oil drilling and drilling in terrestrial protected areas. Triggering a referendum means they will send a list of at least 18 thousand names to the Governor General - indicating that they have at least 10% of the electorate signed up.

This letter to the governor general may also include a question on which a voter can say yes or no. And while that is the official process, on the unofficial side - internally - we understand that not all Coalition members are in agreement.

At least one group, Ya'xche which has been co-managing the 100,00 thousand acres of the Bladen Nature Reserve since 1998 - sees it as a grave tactical error.

We also know that APAMO - which is an umbrella group - also has major issues with the referendum - and abstained on the vote to trigger it.

Channel 7


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#424630 - 12/08/11 02:14 PM Re: Will Oceana get Offshore Drilling referendum? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Ya'axche Opposes Coalition Referendum

Tomorrow morning at the Radisson, The Belize Coalition To Save Our National Heritage will trigger the referendum on oil drilling in marine and terrestrial protected areas.

But there is dissent from one notable objector. The Ya'xche Conservation Trust in The Toledo District resigned from the Coalition - and its director Lisel Alamilla is now publicly criticizing the triggering of a referendum.

Now Ya'axche is only one member out a coalition of many organizations - but very few of those organizations have the track record or the conservation credentials of Ya'axche has been around for 12 years and co-manages the 100,000 thousand acre Bladen Nature Reserve.

And Ya'axche feels that triggering the referendum on oil exploration seriously short changes their conservation efforts:

Lisel Alamilla - Executive Director, Ya'axche Conservation Trust
"The Coalition is proceeding with triggering a referendum despite disagreements, without a unified voice, and really it's time. Tomorrow, apparently, they're going to go ahead with this, it is very concerning. Well, Jules, I've taken a long time to speak up, because I was hoping that we could internally dialog and reach an understanding on it. In this case, I think that this decision is, in fact, undermine the nation on many areas locally. Jules, it's one thing to advocate for sustainable development issues; it's another thing to be on the ground, in the trenches clogging away at these issues. We resigned from the Coalition because we felt that we were not being heard. At the many instances, it was being hijacked, and there were people who had agendas that were not clearly, in our opinion, in the best interests of protected areas. Ya'axche felt that, being a member of APAMO, that it still had a voice and an opportunity to influence them. So we remain a member of APAMO, and APAMO also resigned as members of the executive committee, because we didn't feel that it was - that the dialog was proceeding in a manner that was positive."

Jules Vasquez
"Speaking very specifically about APAMO, they have abstained from voting."

Lisel Alamilla
"APAMO made a decision a while ago, that it would not support a referendum until there was a poll that was convincing that we would win such a move. A poll has not been done, and so I am very disappointed, really, that we have proceeded without being convinced that this is just - and people making kinds of decisions, and I spoke to my friend and this is what I am hearing. But, you know what, I don't know who they're speaking with, but the people I'm speaking with are not really remotely interested in this issue yet, or are far removed from it. Perhaps, the circles in which people in Belize City are moving are different from the circles in which Ya'axche is moving and functioning in. The Coalition has only been around for a year. I think it's too ambitious to think that we are ready to trigger a referendum, and it's not legally binding. You might get the results of people saying, 'No to oil offshore', but after you get that 'no', what do you do with that no?"

Jules Vasquez
"If you win, the Government has the option of ignoring the outcome of the referendum, and if you lose, then the Government can say, 'we have carte blanche to drill at will.'"

Lisel Alamilla
"Exactly, and that's exactly what I am saying, it's not a win-win situation, anyway I look at it. I don't see how to come out on top of it. And I think that because people have not been involved, they think that this issue exists in a vacuum. There are so many other things that we are juggling in the conservation community, and it's putting a lot of these issues at risk. And I am not convinced that we are battle-ready, that we have demonstrated that the Coalition has the might to take on Government."

APAMO- which is the largest conservation umbrella group - abstained when it was time to vote to trigger the referendum.

Channel 7


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#424710 - 12/09/11 02:38 PM Re: Will Oceana get Offshore Drilling referendum? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Coalition Explains the Ya'axche Situation


posted (December 8, 2011)
And while the triggering of the referendum, should have been a moment of singular triumph for the Coalition - the shine was taken off their accomplishment last night when Lilsel Alamilla, the executive director of the Ya'axche Conservation Trust, publicly questioned the strategic value of a referendum - and explained why her organization had resigned from the Coalition.

Well, her savage review was much on the minds of the Coalition leadership today - and they dealt with her involvement in the coalition at some length - starting off with a correction to what we reported. Here's Tanya Williams Thompson:

Tanya Williams Thompson, Coordinator, Coalition
"First of all the Belize Coalition to save our Natural Heritage has not triggered a referendum regarding terrestrial protected areas, it's solely on the offshore. The news broadcast said it was on the offshore and terrestrial protected areas, so that's a correction that is being made. Secondly and it speaks very specific to the organization which made the statements, the coalition reached out to that organization it has never formally made its position to the coalition. It withdrew from the coalition stating that it would voice its position under APAMO. APAMO remains a member of the coalition, so that organization has had all the opportunity to voice its position."

"We at the coalition, we are a democratic organization, very diverse organization and we may not always agree, there will be decent and that's acceptable. However, I think if you have slightest important that first of all you inform your colleagues that you're going to the public, because you're working with counterparts and secondly that your very honest and accurate in the information that you present to the public and the media."

Geovanni Brackett, COLA
"The coalition from the very beginning is a democratic organization, on like what has been reported, we didn't get rail-roaded, we are a diverse coalition made up of several different organization whether it was you burn tire type of organization, whether it was writing letters to try to negotiate, whether it was through ads. But we had our own dynamics. We can't run from it, that's how a coalition is we are diverse, but we all understood that we are there for one purpose, one goal and that was to ban oil exploration offshore and yes in protected areas as credible wise we have not had any professional communication with Lilsel Alamilla, Ya'axche."

Later on, Matura- Shepherd characterized Alamilla as an "attack-dog" and implied she was being set up by government to try to undermine the referendum process.

As for the terrestrial protected areas, which are not part of the referendum question, the Coalition says it will continue to strongly advocate for a ban on oil exploration in those areas and to educate the public on this issue.

Channel 7


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#424711 - 12/09/11 02:39 PM Re: Will Oceana get Offshore Drilling referendum? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Is APAMO Coming Or Going On Referendum Issue?

And while Ya'axche is not in the coalition, it is a member of APAMO, the Association of Protected Management Organizations. That is the umbrella organization for conservation organizations, covering 12 of them.

And with its pre-eminence in the Conservation movement, APAMO - one would think - should be at the center of the referendum process. But, instead, it's on the sidelines; the organization abstained in the voting and today, its Chairman wasn't at the front table; we saw him standing in the back of the room.

But we may be reading too much into it - because Edilberto Romero told us that APAMO supports the coalition:..

Geovanni Brackett - COLA
"APAMO is a member of the coalition still, there are difference still even in cabinet level, but after cabinet makes a decision you don't go in and say well Boots voted this way and the other one voted this way, but we know that from speaking as best as the coalition concern we do as a coalition support each other and we have the support of APAMO."

Jules Vasquez
"I have seen communication which says that they will not support the referendum unless a poll is done before to shown to show that there is enough support."

Edilberto Romero, Chairman of APAMO
"Well unfortunately Jules, that's information shouldn't have been gone out, because that's internally discussions of details that shouldn't have been given out to the media, but the truth of the matter is that, that point is mute at this time. APAMO attended the meeting of the coalition and at that coalition meeting a voting was done and the coalition decided to go ahead with the referendum and as far as I am concern the referendum is going on. So it doesn't matter what position COLA had, or APAMO had or NTUCB had, or any individual organization because it's not an individual organization, its coalition that's moving ahead with the referendum."

Jules Vasquez
"However you all abstain in that vote, I am saying That APAMO..."

Edilberto Romero, Chairman of APAMO
"Yes we, APAMO as a membership had decided on a position. Circumstances have change there is new information that we received at the meeting of the coalition. That information had not been divulged to the membership of APAMO and our position at that point was that, the membership of APAMO needed to hear all that new information, in order to reconfirm its original position or to change its position and so hence our abstention on the voting."

Jules Vasquez
"However is APAMO an organization of sturdy or a firm organization or it's just a "wishy washy" organization because A; it abstains B; you depart from your principle position that a poll had to proceed the thing. What are you guys doing?"

Edilberto Romero, Chairman of APAMO
"It depends what you call it, how you define "wishy washy" I don't think so. Our records stands as a strong organization as organization we have our own internal process that we go through."

Jules Vasquez
"I know that APAMO is an organization when it speaks it should make people tremble or officials tremble and it has in the pass, but I am saying that if this move seems out of character, because it's adopted a position and then when that position is not lived up to, it's just vacates it's position and abstain and I am saying that APAMO does not seem to be committed."

Edilberto Romero, Chairman of APAMO
"Well I'll tell you that this referendum that was decided has been one of the strategies. APAMO has not said referendum is a bad thing we have never said that, it's about the timing of the referendum, it's about the referendum and other strategiess to us, and it's about the timing and as I said there has been new information coming up that was disclosed at the last general meeting that APAMO did not had and it's only fair that APAMO as the leadership to go back to its membership to share that information before we could adopt a yes or no position."

Jules Vasquez
"So then as it stands right now APAMO is uncommitted."

Edilberto Romero, Chairman of APAMO
"As it stands we have to discuss this and we're having a meeting next week to go over it and address these issues, but we are still with the coalition."

APAMO is expected to hold that membership meeting next week.

Channel 7


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#424719 - 12/09/11 02:54 PM Re: Will Oceana get Offshore Drilling referendum? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Coalition blasts Ya’axche as an attack dog

The government has said the referendum is not binding and that it is only one of two roadblocks in front of the coalition. There is dissent and one of its members has broken rank triggering an internal natural disaster that the organizers tried to clean up during the conference. The Ya’axche Conservation Trust, which manages the Bladen Nature Reserve in the south, has resigned from the coalition and it’s Executive Director Lisel Alamilla has publicly blasted the referendum. Alamilla claims that the coalition is saying no to offshore and to terrestrial drilling. She also claimed that the Association of Protected Areas Management Organization (APAMO) does not support the referendum. The Coalition dropped a virtual nuclear bomb on Ya’axche calling it government’s attack dog. Coalition Coordinator also called on Alamilla to be accurate with the facts.

Tanya Willliams, Coalition Coordinator

“The Belize Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage has not triggered a referendum regarding terrestrial protected areas; it is solely on the offshore. The news broadcast said it was on the offshore and terrestrial protected areas—so that’s a correction that is being made. Secondly, and it speaks very specifically to the organization which made the statements; the coalition reached out to that organization. It has never formally made its position. to the coalition. It withdrew stating that it would voice its position under APAMO. APAMO remains a member of the coalition. So that organization has had all the opportunity to voice its position. We at the coalition are democratic, very diverse organization and we may not always agree; there will be dissent and that’s acceptable. However, I think if you have dissent, it is important that first of all you inform your colleagues that you are going to the public because you are working with counterparts and secondly that you are very honest and accurate in the information that you present to the public and the media.”

Geovanni Brackett, Immediate Past Coalition Chair

“How we arrived has not been a railroaded way or a fashion that has totally or in any way neglected the concerns of any individual organization and I want to say very clearly—and I know Tanya touch upon it—that yes Ya’axche was a member of the coalition to save our natural heritage. Couple months ago, they asked to be removed and that they would operate through APAMO. And so that’s how they have operated, but even when they were to represent, Lisel Alamilla had also made a request that she was unable to represent APAMO and so credible-wise, we have not had any professional communication with Lisel Alamilla, Ya’axche—no professional communication or a formal complaint from her to the coalition.”

Audrey Matura Shepherd, Coalition Member-Oceana Belize

“Look at what this means—so anything that is white is free for all. Anything that’s green is sensitive but we could go in. if you start looking now, these are our atolls, these are our barrier reef areas. Look what is red. The only oen that is off limit is up north by the Corozal Bay and interestingly this is Bladden Nature Reserve—the areas that Ya’axche. They already have a foot in with the government. The government has already ban their own proposal indicated. That is why Ya’axche, after nine months of resigning and never complaining to us to say anything, is in a strong position to be their attack dog. And that is the most I’ll say about it. But you people need to understand where people’s interest lie. This is an official document from the government and see—I don’t know if this is what you guys agree that this is all that needs full protection and the rest is ok. It is ok this is serious and for offshore this is of serious magnitude.”

This is sure not to be the end of the dispute now raging among the environmentalists.

Channel 5


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#425077 - 12/13/11 02:45 AM Re: Will Oceana get Offshore Drilling referendum? [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
The following information was released by Fauna & Flora International (FFI):

Fauna and Flora International (FFI) was shocked to learn from our Belizean partner Ya'axche Conservation Trust (Ya'axche) that the security of Bladen Nature Reserve in southwest Belize has recently been jeopardised.

Ya'axche rangers were recently on patrol in the reserve - which is home to iconic species such as jaguar and the great curassow when they found several acres of forest bulldozed and illegal camps of construction workers. The reserve is part of the core conservation area of Belize and Central America and is considered the "jewel" in the crown of Belize's protected area.

They discovered that Belize Hydroelectric Company Development and Management Company Limited (BHD), a Belizean hydropower company, had illegally begun the first steps to building a dam. The company had also created a road which subsequently facilitated access for wildlife hunters and xate palm harvesters - both banned in the reserve.

"Bladen Nature Reserve contains the country's most pristine rainforest and receives the highest level of protection - yet this new threat is just one of several that reserve faces," said Ya'axche Executive Director Lisel Alamilla.

"This discovery demonstrates the constant vigilance needed to protect Belize's precious wildlife and ecosystems. FFI's support of Ya'axche and all that we do is still as important as ever."

FFI has been working in Belize for over 10 years and over that time has helped to build Ya'axche's capacity to run patrols, carry out surveys and engage with local communities around the country's protected areas.

In recognition of Ya'axche's unique conservation knowledge and skills, the Government of Belize asked the organization to take over as Bladen's management authority.

As of now the Forest Department has instructed the BHD to withdraw completely from the area. Members of the Forest Department, the Department of the Environment, Ya'axche and security forces will return to the area to conduct a full damage assessment and recovery cost.

A letter to the Prime Minister appealing for his support has also been sent.

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