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Oceana People’s Referendum #431132
02/22/12 06:27 PM
02/22/12 06:27 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 81,146
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

Marty  Online Happy OP
22nd February, 2012

My fellow J.P.’s
The Belize Coalition to save our natural heritage Oceana will be holding a people’s referendum on Wednesday, 29th February, 2012. Please see letter attached. They are asking different organizations including the Association of Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of the Supreme Court to participate in this referendum. They would like for us the J.P.’s to be present as observers while the voting is going on so it can be seen that it is a transparent referendum that they are conducting. There will also be present people from abroad. They are also asking the churches and other organizations to participate.

Please indicate if you are interested in helping Oceana to conduct this referendum. Please call us at 610-2295 or 610-1737. It will be a countrywide referendum so J.P.’s will be needed from all over the country. We hope to hear from you ASAP.

Thanks, Hon. Adrian (Danny) Madrid,J.P.(S), C.S.c.
National President

[Linked Image]
Size of Gulf oil spill relative to Belize's Territorial area

Re: Oceana People’s Referendum [Re: Marty] #431174
02/23/12 09:11 AM
02/23/12 09:11 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 81,146
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

Marty  Online Happy OP

Oceana Calls For Nationwide Voting In People's Referendum

Another Organization on a mission is OCEANA.

They are organizing for what they call a People's Referendum - which is now set for next week Wednesday - not Friday as had been originally announced.

This afternoon Oceana launched its effort unveiling their plan of action by keeping it as an initiative that is people driven. Vice president of Oceania explained how, to 7news.

Audrey Matura - Shepherd - Vice President, Oceana
"What happened is that we had the official launching of our "The People's Referendum", which is the initiative of the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage. What really we are doing there is to make people know that today, marking one week from now; we're going to have a national referendum, countrywide. That means next week Wednesday, on the 29 of February, we are calling people to come out to the polls. The polls will be opened from 6 in the morning until 8 in the evening. Every district will have their own polling area - more than one polling areas, and we'll be publicizing those in the Friday newspaper, And we want people to go out an vote; it's not to go out and sign, because some people think it's to go and sign. No, we're not collecting signatures anymore we want people to vote. We've collected signatures, and it's been rebuffed. We've done our poll to show that the people definitely oppose offshore drilling. So now, we are giving people the opportunity to go to the poll and vote no to offshore drilling. So what we did was an official launch; we informed the public as to where we are. We introduced our national campaign manager, who is Mr. Francis Gegg. We also had a special presentation by the BTIA, Mr. Jim Scott, who - the BTIA chairs the Coalition, so they're also the chairperson for the Coalition. Mr. Scott is the president of the BTIA, and he wanted people to know that, look the whole tourism industry - the majority of them are definitely against offshore oil simple because of what it means - the impact to the tourism industry. When the Eco-audit was released, it revealed - according to the Fisheries Administrative Act - over 20% of employment presently is as a result of the marine resources that we have; that's tourism and Fisheries. So we've officially launched, and we're reminding people why it is that we are doing this initiative. One of the features that we also highlighted today was the call center. What we have are volunteers coming in - we need a lot more volunteers. We have phone lines that we are manning from 9 in the morning until 9 in the night. It's people calling out unregistered voters, telling them about the referendum, reminding what day, what it means, answering any questions, and answering any questions they may have, because we want to be able to reach the electorate, not only through ads, but one-on-one contact. Obviously, we don't have the machinery of a political party, so we have a call center, and we have volunteers calling and telling people, informing and inviting them to come out. And what we like about that is that the response has been very positive, and people are asking questions. We just love the dynamism of what is going on."

Operations bringing together the logistics are being headquartered at Oceana's office at the corner of Regent and Dean Streets is Belize City.

Channel 7

Re: Oceana People’s Referendum [Re: Marty] #431206
02/23/12 05:19 PM
02/23/12 05:19 PM
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,461
Belize City
Katie Valk Offline

Katie Valk  Offline
The People's Referendum
Scotia bank account # 913 8870

We need people to check names against the voters list, pls let us know if you have the time to assist.


Your wonderful, valuable and fragile Sea.

Belize based travel specialist
[email protected]
Re: Oceana People’s Referendum [Re: Marty] #431367
02/25/12 10:24 AM
02/25/12 10:24 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 81,146
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

Marty  Online Happy OP
Oil referendum next Wednesday – JP Association to observe

The year 2012 is proving to be a very interesting year for the Belizean electorate. Initially, only the municipal elections were billed to be called this year; however, the Barrow administration has called early general elections to coincide with the municipal elections.

The Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage was hoping that election day, March 7, would also be the date when the Belizean populace would be asked, via a national referendum, for their position on offshore drilling.

However, with just over 8,000 voters rejected from the list of petitioners, the Governor-General has declared that the requisite 10% of the voting population has not signed to trigger the referendum.

The Coalition is not backing down on its movement, however, and since the Government will not have the referendum, they will next Wednesday, February 29, hold what they call “The People’s Referendum”—just in advance of the general elections, in the hope that any party forming the new government on March 8 will know what the people’s will is on offshore drilling.

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, a leading member of the Coalition and the vice president of Oceana in Belize, told Amandala that there is the need to let the new government know that this is an issue we need the government to address.

“I hope the next government formed after March 7 is one that realizes there is people power,” she commented.

We asked, “And if it’s the same leadership?”

“We will continue. We have always said it does not matter to us. It does not matter to us which party, which prime minister, the issue remains,” Matura-Shepherd responded. “People realize it is an issue and have stuck to the issue.”

Matura-Shepherd also shared with us the results of a poll the Coalition commissioned to Belizean researcher Yasmine Andrews, who has recently done pre-election polls. The Coalition poll sampled 4,000 from a national phone database and the Coalition had the results of that poll compared with the results of a poll of 4,000 from among the petitioners who gave their phone numbers when they signed the petition forms saying that they want the Government to proceed with the referendum.

We asked her what struck her about the results. “What struck us is that they [the results of the two polls] are so similar!” She noted that no one was allowed to participate in both polls.

“We wanted to test support in the petition against what the country was thinking,” she explained.

In both polls, the vast majority of the respondents (roughly 90%) say NO to offshore drilling. In a second question asking whether the respondent would vote for offshore drilling, less than 1 in 5 said yes.

According to the poll results, more than 90% said they would like to have an opportunity to vote on whether offshore exploration and drilling should occur.

A vast majority also disagree with government not allowing the referendum.

The respondents to the poll also largely encouraged the Coalition to stay in the fight.

Asked why they thought GOB “called off” the referendum, most say that it is really because the Government wants offshore drilling.

As for the next steps, the respondents say “call the people to action.” Some are encouraging a people’s demonstration while others say, take GOB to court!

“The poll vindicated us and we hope that on referendum day, people come out,” said Matura-Shepherd.

She told us that voters can bring any form of ID, because they will have the electoral database to check that the person is a registered voter. It does not matter in which division one is registered, she said, because anyone will be able to vote at any polling station—but only once on referendum day. Once a person votes, the database will be updated to prevent that person from voting twice, and they will have to dip their finger in crude-oil colored, black ink.

The Oceana VP said that the ballot has already been created.

Whereas both the Justice of the Peace Association and the Council of Churches have been invited to observe the referendum, only the JP Association has so far accepted, said Matura-Shepherd. She said that they had also written some international agencies to come observe the referendum, but the Coalition is awaiting a response.

She said that the Coalition is still asking for volunteers and for persons who are able to contribute in cash or kind.

Some in the private sector have been supporting. Radisson has donated a venue for training volunteers, as well as food for the sessions, whereas Maya Island Air will fly the volunteers if they have to move around the country. Matura-Shepherd said they are calling on people in the hotel industry to support as well.


Re: Oceana People’s Referendum [Re: Marty] #431680
02/29/12 09:10 AM
02/29/12 09:10 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 81,146
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

Marty  Online Happy OP

Drilling in the Dark?

Tomorrow OCEANA and the Coalition will hold their so-called people's referendum. Organizers are calling on the public to come out and vote on whether they feel offshore oil drilling should be allowed in Belize.

Now, it's not a real referendum in the formal sense of the word, in fact, it's a symbolic gesture timed - it seems - to nearly coincide with next week's election.

But organizers hope the turnout is powerful enough to send a message to policy - makers in Belmopan - whoever they will be after March eighth.

But beyond the timing and symbolism - the issue of offshore drilling is a rife one - it puts into play several complex issues, from conservation and long term benefits of coastal resources, to immediate tax revenues and medium term development.

A complex interplay of issues, to be sure, but on this one, there's no middle ground, either you're for it or against.

Tonight, special correspondent, Janelle Chanona examines both poles of the divisive issue. Here's her report on what one marine biologist calls, "Drilling In the Dark".

Janelle Chanona Reporting

Belize's underwater world is home to colourful...interesting...terrifying...and awe inspiring marine life. But experts say these incredible creatures and their habitats will disappear in the event of a single oil spill.

The image you are looking at is the last offshore oil rig to work in Belizean waters. In the 2007, Island Oil set up "a jack up platform" in the shallow waters off Monkey River.

Melanie McField - Director, Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, Belize
"This is what they are being allowed to do...was to strap together forty-foot containers filled with Styrofoam and that was used to float the drill rig. How do you do that? How do you string together containers and consider it an adequate platform for open ocean drilling?"

According to Dr. Melanie McField, the Director of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People Initiative, such precedence does not inspire confidence in the regulation of off shore drilling.

Melanie McField
"To some degree, exploratory drilling is always drilling in the dark. They have some data that they are looking at and they are hoping to find something but it's a gamble and that's why people that invest in this are kind of risk-takers, they are gambling, they are hoping to hit it rich."

For decades major oil companies have explored Belize's land and sea searching for petroleum. So far only Belize Natural Energy has discovered crude oil in commercial quantities. But local government experts believe another find is imminent.

And while the oil optimists are hoping for the best, the environmentalists are bracing for the worse...especially when it comes to offshore drilling. They contend accidents are inevitable

Melanie McField
"I don't think there's any way to prevent them. Because you are drilling in the dark. You really don't know what you are drilling into and when you hit it, it can have more pressure than you imagined, things can be different than you thought they would and then your equipment isn't sufficient."

McField argues that finding and producing oil is an inherently dirty business.

Melanie McField
"You are leaving all this debris and kind of construction type material, so that's happening at the site of drilling but there's all of type of other...there is increased boat traffic, there's accidents, there are shipping type accidents and there's pipeline, if you got into production, there would be massive pipes on the seabed taking this oil back on land. We just have no confidence that things are going to be done up to standard, based on the kind of actions that are being taken right now and what has happened in the past."

Andre Cho - Director and Inspector of Petroleum, Ministry of Natural Resources
"The oil industry, especially when it comes off offshore exploration is very risky.just like a lot of other industries."

Director of Petroleum Andre Cho believes Belize can strike a balance between petroleum and industries such as tourism and fisheries. He strongly disputes the environmentalists' position on the issue. In fact we asked him about the Island Oil rig.

Andre Cho
"No, no, no. That's what I'm talking about. They should come here for the correct information and get schooled."

Chief Environmental Officer Martin Alegria was more generous than his colleague.

Martin Alegria - Chief Environmental Officer, DOE
"I wouldn't doubt it the way how in the past things were done without environmental consciousness but what I can tell you is that today, yesterday and perhaps even tomorrow those types, certain types of activities or methodologies that were acceptable may not be now."

For the record, Cho says Island Oil had a typical shallow water jack up platform that was constructed along accepted international industry standards.

Andre Cho
"Yeah, what we did, because we don't have personnel that specialize in offshore rigs and drilling, we hired a company and paid them ten thousand US dollars to come and inspect the rig. That's an example of what we do to fill in the gaps, hire international people, people that are trained and qualified to do these things."

As for the comparisons between the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and potential danger to Belize, Cho sites dramatic differences in depths and pressures between the two locations. Furthermore, he maintains gross negligence was to blame.

Andre Cho
"Yes, people can say well that can happen here. A company can come and be negligent and we are sleeping at our desks. But that's why the NGOs can play an important role to ensure that we are applying the highest requirements and standards for these companies and they can do that by working closely with us."

And Cho goes even further, contending that conservationists should focus on present threats to Belize's marine environment such as from the shipping and cruise ship industries as well as from the tanker which transports sixty-five thousand barrels of oil twice a month from the Big Creek port.

Andre Cho
"So what that tells you? That surprises me - that shocks me. They have the wrong mentality. They should be working with the Government on putting proper things, minimum measures in place to deal with a spill if that tanker runs into the reef...that worries me every day. That they are not doing that...they are not focusing on that."

Tanya Williams - Representative, Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage
"It has been on the radar for a while, but it has not been addressed, which is what raises the red flags for us when we are talking about offshore oil exploration. How can we not address a very simple and present threat, and we are looking at exploding that threat by adding on structures within our barrier reef and marine systems."

The environmentalists maintain all threats to Belize's marine environment need be addressed in a comprehensive manner with proper policies, safety measures and legislation, before any drilling is allowed.

Melanie McField
"These goods and services that the reef is providing, we just take a lot of it for granted. And having a major accident or an industry that's growing and doing a lot of marine construction and alteration of the sea bed and shoreline those are all things that degrade the reef, degrade the mangroves further and increase the potential for a major disaster."

Inherent concerns about off-shore drilling has prompted the environmental community to launch a national public awareness campaign calling for a moratorium on offshore drilling; a ban on drilling in protected areas; and a referendum on the issue.

Nelly Catzim - Executive Director, Southern Environmental Association
"When we hear oil it's just an added concern and a major concern at that."

Nelly Catzim is the Executive Director of the Southern Environmental Association. Based on her team's experience enforcing fisheries' laws in Belize's southern waters, Catzim advises an abundance of caution when it comes to offshore drilling.

Nelly Catzim
"When you look at oil in particular at a national context, not only at the marine context, but in the national context, there may be areas where there is the possibility for exploration. But let's step back, take a look at what currently exists, what mechanisms are in place - can we realistically deal with the proper management of oil exploration in our country at this juncture? And if not, let's look at what needs to go in place before we consider and go down that path."

Andre Cho
"What we are doing, we are doing it with the environment in mind. To develop a country you need revenues and just like with every sector, every industry it has its risks and we just need to do it properly."

Melanie McField
"You'll end up with somebody having a resort or a little eco-lodge right next to a big barge with a docking station for the oil transport industry. It's an ugly dirty business and if you look at photos from the Gulf of Mexico, there's just pipeline and barges, equipment and industrialization everywhere and I don't think anybody that's what anybody really wants our coastline to look like."

Martin Allegria
"I am confident and comfortable that Belizeans are one people when it comes to the protection of our beloved Belize Barrier reef so that being the number one issue across party lines, across economic scales I mean we are already set that that will be one of the primary factors in determining the way forward, not only in petroleum but in tourism, industry."

That feature was produced in association with the Healthy Reefs initiative - it is the first in a two-part series...

Channel 7

Re: Oceana People’s Referendum [Re: Marty] #431685
02/29/12 09:23 AM
02/29/12 09:23 AM
Joined: Jul 2010
Posts: 1,465
San Pedro, Belize
Judyann H. Offline
Judyann H.  Offline
This is a scary prospect for Belize Tourism. At this time I am not in position to directly assist however, I would like to throw in my 2 cents worth.....If the oil drilling goes through all registered companies operating for the sake and livelihood of tourism (no matter how small) should be compensated in the event of a catastrophe. Or any other event that directly effects the income of tourism related companies.....I know this will not save the reef or lives and should certainly include clean up....However, if we are forced to negotiate we should protect our investment, both natural and earned.

My friends call me Judyann
Re: Oceana People’s Referendum [Re: Marty] #431771
02/29/12 07:31 PM
02/29/12 07:31 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 81,146
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

Marty  Online Happy OP

Its latest commercial speaks of how eight thousand people were silenced,
referring to the names of people that were found to be illegitimate by the
Elections and Boundaries Department on the matter of offshore drilling.
But today, OCEANA in Belize is holding its own elections countrywide in a
referendum on that matter. The ballot has only one question: Should there
be oil exploration and drilling in Belize offshore” unquote. Since the
polls opened earlier this morning, there has been a steady showing of
voters, according to OCEANA’s Vice President, Audrey Matura Shepherd.

Audrey Matura Shepherd – Vice President, Oceana Belize
“The response is fantastic. So good that we were forced, some of the
polling stations we had planned to cancel, we were forced to open them.
For example we were not going to have a polling station anymore by Faber’s
Road; we were reconsidering the one by Central American Boulevard and we
couldn’t, we had to open them. We had to open a new one at D’s Diner just
across from the KHMH and just next to the Belize Elementary School because
students and teachers in that area were clamoring and they were calling in
here and they were saying we want to, but we want accessibility and we come
out of school late and we don’t want to be out at night late so the
response has been fantastic. We were forced to send our mobile units in
more places in the rural areas than we had planned to because people are
saying you can’t ignore my village. So at the last hour we were out in the
media begging people to come in and volunteer and fortunately, praise God a
lot of people did come and volunteer.”

Marion Ali – Reporter
Today is your election, you are a politician today and politicians do
campaign and they always make predictions that they are going to win, can I
put you on the spot and ask you how do you think people are voting?

Audrey Matura Shepherd – Vice President, Oceana Belize
“Well I think in this process the people will win. I believe that most of
people are saying no to offshore drilling. We have had grandmothers and
grandfathers come here demanding to vote and saying outright that there is
absolutely no way they would have Belize damaged. We’ve had kids coming and
asking if they could vote and we explain to them that they can’t, we have
schools bring their students to tour so they see how a process of democracy
works and this is the type of response we are getting countrywide. We
expect over 20,000 people if not more to come out and vote.”

Matura Shepherd says that OCEANA and the Coalition to Protect our Natural
Heritage will deal with the matter of drilling in protected areas on
another occasion.

Audrey Matura Shepherd – Vice President, Oceana Belize
“The Coalition on a whole is still addressing the issue of offshore and
onshore but the strategy as to how we deal with offshore and onshore is
different. For offshore we believe that immediately we need a referendum we
need to ban everything, that needs to come to a stop now. Onshore which is
on land is already taking place and that is a whole new dynamic because
onshore we are not saying you shouldn’t drill at all, we are only saying in
the protected areas you shouldn’t so this focus is only what is happening
in our waters.”

Matura-Shepherd says that the objective of this exercise is to show the
government that Belizeans are against offshore drilling and that OCEANA
will keep the fight alive.

Audrey Matura Shepherd – Vice President, Oceana Belize
“When they cancelled 8,000 signatures I have had people call and say Audrey
on principle we are coming out and voting no, so they have only helped by
their negative action to elevate the issue when they could have peacefully
say, let’s hear what the people want.”


Re: Oceana People’s Referendum [Re: Marty] #431775
02/29/12 08:48 PM
02/29/12 08:48 PM
Joined: May 2000
Posts: 1,191
San Pedro Town
Chris Offline
Chris  Offline
So I really thought about this. The ballot was marked "Yes or No" to drilling.

1. I figured that if there were serious oil reserves, enough to produce tens or hundreds of billions of dollars of revenue for Belize I would vote "Yes" to drilling.

2. I said to myself "If it could be guaranteed that the oil revenue was spent only on the infrastructure and well being of Belize and would turn Belize into a country rich in good roads and high wage earners and eliminate poverty, and would fully compensate and repair damage done to the environment of Belize and the affected people of Belize in the event of an oil spill disaster I would vote "Yes."

3. Furthermore, I wanted to be sure that the Government of Belize would not siphon oil revenues for the personal gain of themselves or their cronies and were only pushing for this offshore oil drilling in the very best interests of Belize and its people and not for themselves. If I could be sure of this I would vote "Yes."

I figured if two out of three or even one out of three of the conditions above were guaranteed to be met I wouldn't vote "Yes" or "No" at all. I'd just sit on the fence.

So I voted "No"

Re: Oceana People’s Referendum [Re: Marty] #431814
03/01/12 08:48 AM
03/01/12 08:48 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 81,146
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

Marty  Online Happy OP

"People's Referendum" A Success

They call it the People's Referendum - and today OCEANA and the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage deployed volunteers to 50 polling stations all across the country.

It is a huge national effort designed to get Belizeans to take a position on this topical, complex issue.

After a poll a few weeks ago which showed widespread support - OCEANA and the COALITION decided that they couldn't go wrong by asking people to vote on it - in an unofficial referendum - but one so large that no government could ignore it.

They seemed to have made just the right move - because today we saw folks coming out in large numbers to support the referendum - making it clear that official or unofficial, they want their sentiments registered.

Here's the story:

Jules Vasquez Reporting

We visited a number of polling station and the turnout was strong and steady, the voting brisk

Dr. Melanie McField - Healthy Reefs Initiative
"It's been busy since morning. The first person came before we were quite set up, right at 6 a.m., and it's been a steady flow, only maybe 2 or 3 time's we've had a little bit of a line, but I don't think that anyone had to wait more than 5 minutes."

The voters we spoke to were crystal clear in their position - and what struck us is that many came to this location at Brodies on the Northern Highway just to vote - same here at the Oceana office where people took time out from their lunch to come in - and here at the corner of Central American Boulevard where they didn't have the fancy laptops like other polling station but still people were coming out steadily, and at midday they counted over 500 who had already come to vote. Allen Acosta rode to the Brodies site on bike:

Jules Vasquez
"Allen, I see that you came on bike. You came here just to vote?"

Allen Acosta - Participated in People's Referendum

Jules Vasquez

Allen Acosta
"I like fish. Look at what's happening in Mexico and places like that. We like fish."

Jules Vasquez
"Aaron, explain to me why you felt it important to take time out to come and vote."

Aaron Gongora - Participated in People's Referendum
Well, offshore is something that is really a 'touchy' situation, with our tourism and waters. If America, which has all the resources and all of the big exploration, had some serious problems, what do you think of us out here? I don't mind that drill on the land, but not in the sea."

Jules Vasquez
"Why did you feel it important to come out and vote today?"

Marlon Garbutt - Participated in People's Referendum
"Because I think this is an important decision in our country because it can ruin a lot of things in our country. It could help us at the same time, but I think that it can ruin more than it can help. I am not ashamed to say that I voted no."

Jules Vasquez
"Why did you feel it important to come out today?"

Radiance Sanchez - Participated in People's Referendum
"Because I'm a Belizean, and it is my right to do well for my country. I will tell you Jules, out loud, that I voted no because I love my country, Belize. That is our beautiful sea and reef, and I have to protect it as a Belizean."

Jules Vasquez
"Mr. Mendez, explain why did you feel it important to come out here today, and vote."

Albert Mendez, Participated in People's Referendum
"Well, I personally don't believe that they should drill in the sea. I don't believe that there should be offshore oil drilling. We may not have an accident for a 100 years, but all it takes is one accident. I might be dead and gone, and that will mess up our barrier reef."

Jules Vasquez
"Maud, explain to me. You made an effort to come out here. Why?"

Maude Conorquie - Participated in People's Referendum
"Yes, because it's something good for the younger generation coming up because you see if they go and do that, they won't have any fish. The place will be wreck and so."

Dr. Alvaro Rosado - Participated in People's Referendum
"Because I think that we need to respect our natural resources, take care of it. As soon as we have the proper technology in place, no problem with drilling. I want to expensive tomorrow, but I am not willing to sell my house to do that."

Orthon Clarke - Participated in People's Referendum
"This is a special effort to get here today because I feel that we here in Belize is not ready yet for any kind of exploration or any kind of oil transaction. We should be at this time pay every consideration to the fact that oil exploration and drilling is not in the best interest of this country at this time."

Jules Vasquez
"Why did you vote how you voted?"

G. Michael Reid - Participated in People's Referendum
"Because I believe it's very important that we preserve our reef and our environment. I think that what I have enjoyed, I want my children to enjoy."

Jules Vasquez
"So you had to make a little effort to come here. You are parked a little far."

Richard Palace - Participated in People's Referendum "I park all the way down by Stone Jam, but I came here because I feel proud, so no to oil drilling, simple as that."

Giovannie Vasquez - Participated in People's Referendum
"Well, actually, we just saw the voting polls out here, so I decided to come out and voice my opinion because many times, Belizean people just let things go, and we don't come out and voice our opinion. We let other people speak on it for us. So I decided to come out and vote because I am not with this offshore drilling. Tourists won't want to come out to our country to see any oil rig. They come out to our country to see our beautiful Blue Hole and our barrier reef. They don't want to see any oil rig and people pumping oil from the sea."

While some did get a t-shirt - voting was unsolicited - we didn't see anyone hustling votes and ringmaster Audrey Matura Shepherd had reason to be happy

Audrey Matura-Shepherd - Vice President, Oceana
"What is here is more than just us going through a process. It is showing that the culture of the Belizean people can be changed. Imagine, all these people came to the polls, and we did not pay them anything to come out, no one penny. We're happy and elated - like San Pedro, the results are overwhelming. We expected that, but when we heard Corozal, the lines and lines."

And for all those who lined up, the demonstrative signs outside made it clear - how to vote. Indeed this was not your standard voting process where signs are not allowed inside the polling area. Here they made it clear, in signage and t-shirts just what they wanted you to do.

Dr. Melanie McField
"It's so hard to get people to come out that we were using all of our banner and anything that can grab attention, but there are people who have come who are on the other side, and that's fine. We want them to come. We're baiting them -"

Jules Vasquez
No. you aren't baiting them; you are telling them how to vote. The idea of any vote is that the voter's mind should be uncluttered."

Dr. Melanie McField
"Well, what do you do every night on the news? You are cluttering with all the ads."

Jules Vasquez
"Yes, but on election day when you go into your box, it's a sacred, secret space, and you do what you want. I'm just saying that it's a bit much. It seems that you all have an outcome that you want, and no matter what, you'll get that outcome."

Dr. Melanie McField
"We do have an outcome that we want. We're the ones who have been advocating for this; so that's true. But people have been coming and voting how they want. They have their little space. They go down there alone and vote. We don't see how they vote, and we don't ask them how either."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you concerned about the legitimacy of the exercise in so far as a.) there is a certain element of fraud that it's open to and b.) voters are being told how to vote."

Audrey Matura - Shepherd
"We are concerned to an extent because we know that those mischief-makers will want to abuse the process. But the good thing is that as you go and vote, we put everybody's name down so that we can cross-tabulate. And I can assure you, if we find anybody voting more than one time, we are going to disqualify all those votes for those people."

Jules Vasquez
"It's clear, Audrey, that if I want to vote yes, I am not welcomed here because of your sign."

Audrey Matura - Shepherd
"That is not true."

Jules Vasquez
"But the sign says vote 'no'."

Audrey Matura - Shepherd
"That is not true. That is absolutely not true. If you want to vote yes, you can come and vote yes. I was being told-"

Jules Vasquez
"I can, but it is a deterrent to have everybody with the signs and T-shirts. You know what outcome you want."

Audrey Matura - Shepherd
"The outcome we want has already been reflected in our polls."

Jules Vasquez
"Everybody knows that the concept behind a voting space is that it has to be a sacred, secret enclosure, where the voter's mind is unencumbered by external influence which is prodding him/her which way to vote. Right here, you are overtly saying, 'Come and vote this way.'"

Audrey Matura - Shepherd
"Well, if you feel that way, Jules, and if that is maybe reflecting the position of maybe what the politicians that oppose it will say, my answer to that is simply that if you didn't want that to be that way, just put it on the ballot."

And while criticisms can be made of this open process - Matura-Shepherd says the point has been made:

Audrey Matura - Shepherd
"We've always said that we know why we call it the People's Referendum. We know that we are only trying to simulate a process. We don't even have the machinery and the money that they have. So we are satisfied with just the outcome, whichever way it goes, and the fact that people came out. But at the end of the day, no matter criticism is made, the voice of the people is resounding, no matter how they vote. Even if you want to come and vote 'yes', we won't turn you away. What matters is the amount of people who are coming out."

According to OCEANA, after midday the number of voters who had shown up at all polling stations were about 10,000.

Polls will close at 8:00 tonight.

As you heard in the story, they hope to get about twenty thousand voters - which is more than 10% of the 178,000 registered voters...

Referendum Haters Allege Fraud

And while that would be an impressive figure - and it seems like they will get it, would it matter if a few of those votes were bogus?

It seems that's just what one man set out to do today: to expose the People's Referendum as a fraud.

The persons who is known to us - asked to conceal his name and face - but he told us and presented us pictures of him voting at four different polling stations.

He started at Brodies on the Northern Highway, then went to Mahogany Heights, then Valley Community and then Dangriga. He claims he managed to vote at two locations with black ink on his finger.

The pictures show him voting at all four locations.

From our observation, the system is vulnerable to this type of mischief because registered electors were allowed to vote at all polling stations regardless of where they were registered: for example you could vote in Belize City even if you were registered in Toledo East.

Nonetheless Matura-Shepherd told us they've kept a record of the names of all those who voted, and all those names which appear more than once will be struck out...

Channel 7

Re: Oceana People’s Referendum [Re: Marty] #431819
03/01/12 08:59 AM
03/01/12 08:59 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 81,146
oregon, spr
Marty Online happy OP

Marty  Online Happy OP

San Pedranos vote against Offshore Drilling

The People’s Referendum on off shore drilling is being held today countrywide. From all accounts voting has been steady all day and the organizers, the Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage, say they are satisfied with the turnout. OCEANA, which is at the frontlines, collected twenty thousand signatures last year, eight thousand were rejected, thus today’s mock referendum. The Coalition had hoped to match the twenty thousand figure, but it appears that may be surpassed for the poll that is not binding. Offshore drilling is an issue involving many factors. In San Pedro AC, tourism drives the economy, so the referendum has immense importance. Over seven thousand voters are registered in Belize Rural South; most live on the island. News Five’s Jose Sanchez reports.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting

Primarily overnight tourists stoke the service sector on Ambergris Caye. San Pedro then is the home to many people that depend on the sustainable development of the tourism industry. And so the issue of offshore drilling and exploration is being voiced in the Central Park of town.

Elito Arceo

Elito Arceo, Team Leader, Peoples Referendum

“We arrived at about five this morning. The voting started at six and we’ve had a steady stream of people throughout the whole day and that is very, very good. As you can tell, everybody here is volunteering of their time. People are coming on their own which is tremendous for us. It is nice seeing the people come out and vote. We’ve had a very short time to put this out to the people that this is actually happening. I think in this division alone is close or over seven thousand voters. That’s a lot of people but in San Pedro itself, it is six thousand. If it was up to me, I woulda get everybody to come. So we are hoping for a nice eighty-seventy percent of the voting population to come out and up to now, close to twelve o’clock; fifteen hundred, two thousand voters we’ve had come out. But that is just a rough estimate and we have not counted it. So we can guide ourselves to what is happening which is very good.”

Patty Arceo

Patty Arceo, P.U.P. Standard Bearer, Rural South

“The Belize Barrier reef that is why people come here in our country Belize; one of the main reasons. Now here in San Pedro everything that we do is about the sea. We started with the fishing industry, then the tourism industry and everything focuses around the reed. Just in San Pedro alone, we have about thirteen diving spots: we have Hol Chan, Rocky Point, Mexico Rocks—these are some of the best snorkeling areas plus shark and sting ray alley. So everything that we do here in relation to tourism in San Pedro—about ninety-nine percent—it does has to do with the Belize barrier reef.”

Jose Sanchez

“Why is it important for you to be a part of this exercise?

James Medwood, San Pedro Resident

James Medwood

“Because I don’t think it is a good idea. And I think that it will wreck our tourism business and I don’t think that would work in Belize.”

Jose Sanchez

“James what do you do out here in San Pedro?”

James Medwood

“I’m an artist.”

Jose Sanchez

“So no reef, no tourist.”

James Medwood

“Yes it will slow me down. So I don’t think that would work out here. in the mainland maybe that will work but not out here.”

Dale Wallace

Dale Wallace, San Pedro Resident

“I’m a musician and I’ve been playing for most of my life and my income depends on tourism and tourism depends on the reef. If this oil drilling happens; if there is any spill like what happened in the Gulf or other places of the world, it would be really drastic and bad for our country. If there was an oil spill out in the front of our ocean, I would say it would at least two hundred years to recover from it. What would happen to our future, to our future kids, will they have any future in the country? We depend on the reef and the reef depends on us to take care of it. And I just hope that everybody comes out and votes today and we gotta fight against this; it is not healthy for our country. It is definitely gonna make a bad impact on our country if this happens.”

The Ofarrell’s sums it up. The beauty and life of the reef compelled them to leave North America to call Belize home.

Marty Ofarrell, San Pedro Resident

Marty Ofarrell

“We live here because of the reef. It is what brought us here and the Caribbean Sea. That’s why we live here. Any possibility of soiling it or spoiling it is bad for us is bad for the country.”

Carrie Ofarrell, San Pedro Resident

“I agree he said it all.”

Jose Sanchez

“I’m assuming then you voted no.”

Carrie Ofarrell

Carrie Ofarrell

“We voted no.”

Jose Sanchez

“There is a bigger issue in t at even if the country would say no to offshore drilling, you still have Honduras, you have Mexico—if they would have a spill we would still be affected. So some people would say let’s just make the money; if there is a spill there is going to be a spill.”

Carrie Ofarrell

“I disagree. I mean somebody has got to put their foot down. Why not make it Belize.”

Marty Ofarrell

“Yeah that is exactly what I think too. Somebody has to lead the way and set the example. And we have the major part of the reef here too, so there is no reason in the world why that shouldn’t be us here in Belize too to actually say no and have it work.”

The steady stream of voters continued throughout the day. Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

The actual results of how many people participated will be released on Thursday.

Channel 5

Too Big to Ignore: 30,000 Vote In People's Referendum

Belize City witnessed a ruthless, daring and ultimately violent armed bank robbery today - we'll have the full story of that coming up - as our editors are putting the last touches on that story, but first, the event called the People's referendum.

Last night we showed you how it went throughout the day - voting was brisk, and participants were outspoken in their opposition to offshore drilling.

Well, the polls closed at 8:00 last night and results were tabulated overnight.

They were presented today and - as might have been expected from yesterday's turnout - the numbers were off the charts - not only in how many voted - but in how many were opposed to offshore drilling.

We went to OCEANA's office to hear the results today of an unofficial referendum - with really only one side of the issue campaigning and coordinating - but all that aside, the numbers are too big to ignore:

Jules Vasquez Reporting

Today - whatever fatigue accumulated over a night of counting ballots - was overtaken by the rush of success that far surpassed expectations:

Audrey Matura - Shepherd - Vice President, Oceana
"We want people to that we are proud to announce that the total amount of voters who came out was 29,235. Give them a round of applause."

There was no shortage of self-congratulation, but with good reason - the results validate all the Coalition has been saying.

Of the 29,235 who voted countrywide - 28,208 - a resounding 96% - voted no to offshore drilling:

Audrey Matura - Shepherd
"For the Corozal District, we had a total of 3,501 voters who came out, yay, Corozal. And that's only in Corozal the District itself, because a lot of them did vote in San Pedro and Belize, where they live now or work. And so there, we have 98% of the people of Corozal who all said no to offshore drilling, and 1.5% said yes. That 0.5% may have accounted for spoilt or missing ballots. In the Stann Creek District we had a total of 3,721 voters who went out to cast their vote. 95% of them said no to offshore drilling; 4% said yes. In Caye Caulker, we had had 478 registered voters who went out to cast their votes. Of those, 97.2% said no to offshore drilling, and 1.8% said yes. In San Pedro, 2,725 persons came out to cast their votes. Of those, 98% said no to offshore drilling. 1.5% said yes to offshore drilling. In Cayo - mein those people in Cayo love their politics. Listen to this number: 4,984 people went out to cast their votes, yay Cayo, 'Big up Cayo'. And of t hose, 95% said no to offshore drilling, and 2.7% said yes. In the Belize District, we had the largest amount, of course. We had 9,463 voters who went out to cast their votes. And listen to this number: 97% of them said no offshore drilling. In Orange Walk - again, another place that just loves their politics - listen to this number. 3.356 people went out to cast their votes, and they only had 3 polls in Orange Walk, and those 97% of them said no to offshore drilling, and 1.9% said yes to offshore drilling. Listen to how many people came out to vote in the Toledo District: 1007. 94% of them said absolutely no offshore drilling, and 5.6% said yes to offshore drilling. So those are the figures: alarming, resounding no to offshore drilling."

And if there seemed to be more than a bit of triumphalism or gloating, that's because it's - for them - validation of a long process which has met sustained institutional resistance.

Audrey Matura - Shepherd
"We've been working on this for 2 years almost now, you know. We've been pushed to this level of demonstration - we would say - which is a peaceful way to demonstrate - because our leaders are not listening. And come March 7, after the results are read out on the 8th of March, it does not matter who becomes the next government, I hope that the political parties are heeding the warning, that this is just the start."

And the man who started it all two years ago is Geovanni Brackett:

Geovanni Brackett - President, COLA
"I think that the results of close to 30,000 have shown an indicated what the people of Belize feel about this issue. Considering the fact that we didn't pay for any votes; we didn't have any big machinery - no big vans to bring out people. One of my friends said that we'd probably get 1,500. To have close to 30,000 is a huge accomplishment. And to have any Government underestimate the close to 30,000 people - of voters - I want to say that if you underestimate those people, and you are going up against the will of the people, to me, I think that's political suicide. And I think that any government who dares to embark on offshore drilling is embarking on political suicide."

And now the ruling party is in a delicate position since Leader Dean Barrow has said he won't negotiate with Matura-Shepherd - but with 29 thousand voters in her sack, she's got one heck of a bargaining chip - and boy, does she know it:

Audrey Matura - Shepherd
"We will stay together as the Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage. We keep on working, and we will not disenfranchise the people of this country. And, definitely, we will not alienate any of our leaders for the sake of the whims or fancies of anyone who does not like working with us."

That's what you might call a hot potato with a dagger in it - but while OCEANA takes the credit, and adopts the swagger - the remarkable response is really thanks to a passionate citizenry:

Yasmin Andrews - Statistical Analyst
"Again, the general conclusion is that Belizeans do not want offshore drilling. Now we really can't get any clearer than that because you had the poll; you had the referendum; you had the signing of the sheets. Now you have people actually going to vote, walking from point A to B, and going to vote so."

Jim Scott - President, BTIA
"We have a very empowered and responsible citizenry that felt compelled to come out and vote. It was very rewarding to see people taking such great concern and responsibility to what really is just a mock referendum. It was a voice from the people."

And so now that those people have spoken?

Audrey Matura - Shepherd
"It's not what's next. This is just the start of the momentum."

That momentum would need to be a little more though for a successful referendum - that would require 60% of the electorate to vote, or 106,800 people - and they'd have to get half of that, 53,506 to vote no to offshore drilling - that's almost twice what they got in this vote - still their confidence - with reason - is unbroken:

Audrey Matura - Shepherd
"But had this gone on the referendum on Election Day, clearly we would have the more than 60% turnout. And I can assure you, based on our poll, and based on our own referendum; we have had at least 90% of the population vote no to offshore drilling."

The ballots were tabulated at district counting stations in each district with a Justice Of the Peace as witness.

And while detractors can surely criticize the less than optimal conditions under which the entire process was conducted - in terms of lack of independent scrutiny and uniform oversight - Matura-Shepherd says the will bring in the ballots to cross tabulate the results. During that process they will also strike out those persons who voted more than once.

Channel 7

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