Commentary: Proposed bill is a slap in the face for natural born Belizeans and citizens of Belize who live abroad

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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 Bill that Kareem Musa is proposing does not go far enough for natural born Belizean citizens and other citizens who live in the United States and abroad. This is because natural born citizens and all the citizens of Belize are entitled to their constitutional rights whether they live in Belize or abroad.

The three months residency requirement that was placed in the People’s Representative Ordinance is only there to prevent voters from voting in constituencies where they do not live but, despite this provision, this is taking place in Belize now.

There is also proof that many Belizeans have been allowed to register and vote in constituencies where they do not live, despite the residency requirement. Also, many of our elected representatives do not live in the constituencies that they represent. The UDP and PUP governments of Belize have and continue to grant Belizean citizenship to Guatemalans. This is unconstitutional, while denying their natural born citizens and other citizens that same right to register and vote. To grant citizens who are not natural born or citizens of Belize a right to vote is criminal.

It is a gross constitutional violation because the UDP and PUP governments of Belize have violated the constitution they have sworn to uphold. In many other countries, criminal charges would be brought against the government representatives and possible severe punishment for their actions. Musa’s proposed legislative bill is a ploy to make us believe that the PUP care about us when they do not.

When the prime minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, and his UDP administration proposed Amendment 7, to grant Belizean citizens who live abroad their full citizenship rights, the PUP were against it. Some of them are still opposed to granting us our full dual citizenship rights but are in favor of giving us watered down citizenship rights like this one.

We want the Article 7 Amendment to obtain our full citizenship rights as natural born Belizean citizens and other citizens of Belize and nothing less. We do not have to beg the UDP or PUP to grant us our rights that we are entitled to. They were elected to uphold our country’s constitution but they have chosen to violate it by denying us our fundamental rights and giving those same rights to Guatemalans who want to take our country away from us.

Dual citizenship means to have all rights as citizens for the two countries that a person is a citizen of in accordance with the constitutions of those countries. Musa’s proposed Bill is a two tier citizenship bill. It will only allow Belizean citizens who live abroad to vote in the upcoming referendum and nothing else. He is saying that we live abroad and do not possess residency in Belize.

Maybe he forgot that almost all Belizeans own or come from a home in Belize where their relatives live. All they have to do is to allow Belizeans who live abroad to register with those addresses under a Belizean Citizens Abroad Registry. Then, allow them to register at the embassies, consulates or at home when they visit Belize.

I have written more than one article outlining how Belizean citizens living abroad can register and vote from the countries where they currently reside. The Belize government can convene a special session of the National Assembly to grant us this fundamental right if they want us to have it through a Statutory Instrument (SI).

They do not want Belizeans living abroad to vote in the referendum because they think that they will vote NO to take the Guatemalan dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for final resolution. This is an assumption made by them without any facts to back it up.

Meanwhile, most PUPs believe that Belizeans who live in the United States and abroad support the United Democratic Party. They too do not have any evidence to support their false assumption. Belizeans living in the United States must not accept any second class citizenship proposal. Instead, we need to proceed to the courts to bring a case against them for denying our citizen rights, while granting rights to Guatemalans to register and vote against our country’s constitution.

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