Members of the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of the American States began arriving today in Belize ahead of the November fourth elections. There are thirteen members to the delegation, headed by Ambassador Jacinth Henry-Martin, Chief of Staff to O.A.S. Secretary General Luis Almagro. Henry-Martin and her team will meet with officials of the Elections and Boundaries, representatives from the political parties, the government, civil society and the media. Belize has traditionally held peaceful elections, but the mission will be paying keen attention to the electoral process. The last time the mission was here was for the 2012 General Elections, so it will be following up with recommendations it made then. Following a training session, members of the mission will be deployed to the districts. The O.A.S. says that on November fourth, observers will visit polling stations across the country from the opening of the polls to the counting of votes and the publication of results. A report of its preliminary findings will be released at a press conference and subsequently to the Permanent Council of the Organization in Washington. Members of the team are from eleven countries including Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, El Salvador, France, Mexico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.

Channel 5


OAS Election Observer Mission In Belize

In our first segment, we told you about PUP's allegation of fraud with proxy votes. As you heard both the UDP Party Chairman and the Chief Elections Officer deny this allegation and say due process was followed. Well, there is one organization that will be paying close attention to these processes on election day, and that's the OAS. An observer mission arrived in Belize yesterday to oversee the election process in Belize and to submit recommendations thereafter. Today we sat down with Chief of Mission Jacinth Henry-Martin and she described the role of the team here in Belize and how this exercise can further enhance the electoral process going forward.

Courtney Weatherburne
"When was this election observer mission established?"

Jacinth Henry-Martin, Chief of Mission
"We have respond in the OAS to the government of Belize. The election observation mission really respond to invitation from government. We do not appear unless invited and this is the second such election observation mission to Belize. The first one being in 2012. About two weeks ago, a formal accord was signed between the OAS and the permanent representative of Belize to the OAS in respect of monitoring of these elections."

Courtney Weatherburne
"One of the main roles of the OAS is to make sure that the election process is diplomatic and fair. Those are two key concerns for candidates and supporters throughout the process. There have been many complaints from supporters and candidates as well about secretive meetings, among candidates, between supporters or among supporters on the day and of course the days leading up to election - just a number of complaints. Where does the OAS step in and what is these specific role of the OAS in this entire process?"

Jacinth Henry-Martin, Chief of Mission
"It is important for me to point out the objectivity and impartiality of the observation mission. It is a mission to observe and as part of that process we do meet with various parties. We have met with in more of a courtesy call of the Prime Minister. We met with some civil organization. We hope to meet with youth groups and so across the board we are meeting to hear of the concerns if any, that are going to be express to learn from all of the entities with which we interface and basically to get a feel for what the elections are shaping up to be."

Courtney Weatherburne
"Now I am glad you brought up that point and you clarified that as well, because the team is here only to observe. But now some people might criticize and say that since the team is simply working in that capacity, just an observer team as you mentioned, your presence here might just seem symbolic. How do you respond to that?"

Jacinth Henry-Martin, Chief of Mission
"I don't know if I would use the word symbolic. Because I believe that the result, which is the report is where the information and the guidance of national authorities thereafter. Also to inform and to guide the other member states in terms of what can be learnt from the process. It also affords a measure of confidence building that the process really has been undertaken, that it confirm to certain international standards with regards to elections and it helps to build a measure of confidence in the fact that the OAS which is a body to which the Belize has confirmed and been a member for quite some time, has been here and has witnessed the process in play."

The team comprises 13 members from 11 nations. Tune in tomorrow to hear the second half of the interview where Martin discusses the major challenges Belize faces in the election process.

Channel 7