Oceana seeks Judicial Review of Government’s decision to Disqualify over 8,000 Referendum Petition Signatures

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Oceana in Belize Press Release

May 7, 2012
Belize City, Belize
( [email protected] )
Hipolito Bautista ( [email protected] )

On Friday May 4, 2012, Oceana in Belize filed notice of application for leave to apply for judicial review of the decision of the Chief Election Officer to disqualify 8,047 petitioners and thus nullifying the chance of a Referendum on the issue of offshore oil exploration and drilling under section 22 B of the Referendum Act 2008.

The decision to move to the courts in this matter follows repeated attempts by Oceana in Belize, on behalf of the Coalition to Save our Natural Heritage, to get a response to three basic questions as it relates to this matter. The information sought were the names of the 8,047 petitioners disqualified, the reasons for each disqualification and the rules or process put in place to determine who qualifies and who does not. By three different letters dated February 7, March 15 and May 2, 2012 Oceana has made repeated requests; to date no response to the questions have been forthcoming.

On February 16, after a brief telephone conversation with the CEO and now Minister of Public Service & Elections & Boundaries, Charles Gibson, Oceana in Belize received a letter simply stating that the department is seeking legal advice. Two and a half month later, no further response has been received.

Oceana’s VP Audrey Matura-Shepherd explains that, “since all other means has failed, we have no other option but to turn to the courts to have this matter heard and challenge the decision of the Chief Elections’ officer as unreasonable.”

The disqualification, representing close to 40 percent of all signatures, was collected by the Coalition to Save or Natural Heritage, during a national petition drive in 2011.