Commentary: All Belizean citizens living abroad are disenfranchised

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Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has BAs in Political Science and History from Hunter College, NY, and an MA in Urban Studies from Long Island University. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science and History

By Wellington C. Ramos

The Belizean government, the political parties and all Belizeans know who their citizens that are living abroad are and can remedy this situation if they want to do so. All the government has to do is to go to the National Assembly and present a bill requesting that reasonable accommodations be granted to Belizean citizens who live abroad in this re-registration process.

In the bill they can request: (1) That the names of the Belizeans who are currently on the Registration List remain on it; and (2) For those Belizeans living abroad who would like to vote on the ICJ issue that are not registered to vote, the Election and Boundaries Department shall prepare a registration form for them to pick up at their consulate or embassy offices where they live or that is closer to them to register to vote.

This registration form could also be made accessible to them on the Elections and Boundaries Department website. This is not a lot that the citizens of Belize living abroad are asking for from their government, which is supposed to be looking after their best interest.

The governments of Belize, both PUP and UDP, have granted, and continue to grant Belizean citizenship to Guatemalans, which is a gross violation of our country’s constitution and in some countries would be deemed a criminal act because of Guatemala’s continued claim to our land of birth and citizenship.

I cannot believe that the representatives of the UDP, PUP, BPP and all the other political parties in Belize cannot see the urgent need to do this on behalf of their Belizean citizens living abroad. If such is the case, then we can conclude that the Belizeans living abroad have no representation in Belize whatsoever. This is why we will have to find or form a political party that can represent our interest at home.

Then, Belizeans living abroad must get an attorney and go to court to ask the judge to grant them their constitutional right to vote as citizens of Belize. If a citizen is living in another country, that citizen or those citizens must be treated as citizens of that country despite the fact that he, she or they are living abroad.

I cannot see a sane judge ruling on behalf of the Belize government in a case like this in Belize. Why? Because in Belize many of our judges are from other Caribbean countries and he or she has to think about his or herself facing the same situation like Belizeans living abroad in another country.

Courts have also ruled in some cases of other Commonwealth countries that citizens are entitled to their voting rights despite the fact that they live abroad.

I now call on all Belizean citizens and organizations abroad to take this matter seriously and demand our rights to register and vote before the ICJ question is put to a vote in Belize. Also, that, for those Belizeans who cannot travel, proxy voting be allowed for them to participate in this extremely important decision.

Our government, political parties and fellow Belizean brothers and sisters, should not anticipate the vote of Belizeans living abroad before they are being given the opportunity to vote. If such is one of the reasons why they are not making any effort to grant Belizean citizens living abroad their right to register and vote, then this act in itself could be deemed unconstitutional.

I see going to the courts as the only way out for this problem to be resolved.

Belizeans living abroad can no longer wait on false promises because they are not going to materialize. The time to act is now. We must alert all of our family and friends about this situation and get them involved in this legitimate struggle. The chief elections officer, Josephine Tamai, cannot do anything for us and should not be held accountable because she is just carrying out the instructions from her boss, which is the government of Belize.

If the government of Belize changes in the next election, the situation will get worse because the PUP is against Belizeans who live abroad getting their dual citizenship rights in their country of birth and citizenship. As to the BPP, I do not know where they stand on Belizeans with dual citizenship rights because I have heard nothing from them regarding this important issue

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