And before he went to meet with the Prince at the airport, Prime Minister Dean Barrow sat down with 7news for an extended interview. It is an interview which will air separate from the news on Monday night - and we have also invited the Leader of the Opposition to do the same. He has accepted, and we await an opening in his schedule.
So those will air next week - in extended form outside the news - but tonight, for the news, we did ask the Prime Minister about the People's referendum. As we've been telling you for the past two nights - the referendum organized by OCEANA and the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage was a huge success - getting more than twenty nine thousand people to vote - 96% of them voting no to offshore drilling.
And when we spoke to the Prime Minister today, he was duly impressed - and agreed that indeed, a referendum must be held:
Prime Minister Dean Barrow - Prime Minister of Belize
"Any way you slice it, that was a hell of a turn-out. I was a hell of a performance. I do make the point that of course, had it been a real referendum, they would have been nowhere near the threshold that is required to have a referendum pass. Nevertheless, you can't, if you're going to be a conscientious government, ignore what - at its worst - is a very strong, passionate minority sentiment. You can't ignore. The least that the new government can do in the face of everything - and this is not anything new. This is not a reaction to what happened on Wednesday because I've said it before. And I said it several times, and in several places, most recently as I can recollect, for the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, which is a member of the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage. The lease that the Government can do is to give these people their referendum. I personally would be prepared to support the Government sponsoring the referendum to be held at an appropriate time after we would have allowed for a full-throttle debate during which people will not just hear from one side. What happened on Wednesday - when you are playing against yourself, it is easy to score, you know. But I am saying that I do not want to make light of the fact that whether it is because there is been this one-sided propaganda on the issue for so long, or not, it doesn't matter. It is a significant turnout. It means that sufficient people of goodwill in this country are concerned enough about this issue to say to the Government, 'At the very least, give these people their referendum.'"
"Are you able to commit to a timeline, if you are elected?"
Prime Minister Dean Barrow
"No, but it's not the kind of thing that we would want to do 2 years from an election, within a reasonable timeline, providing - as I said - only for enough space to allow a full-fledged balance debate to take place."
You can see that interview in its extended form after the news on Monday night - when the Prime Minister will discuss a whole host of election-oriented issues - including his surprising remarks on the ongoing war with the Ashcroft Alliance...Channel 7