We at the Belize PEACE Movement (BPM) trust that your organisation, tasked with providing technical support toward ensuring that adequate awareness and preparedness for the national referendum is realised, remains abreast of all that is transpiring concerning the impending referendum scheduled for April 10, 2019.
This correspondence serves as the BPM’s official complaint regarding reports we have received from across the country of personnel dressed in the decal of the UNDP, interviewing citizens as to their likely vote. A second observation is that in its work with the referendum unit, the UNDP has unwittingly supported known UDP campaign persons, selected by the referendum unit to give out pamphlets and other things. Most significantly is the UNDP’s failure or silence even when the government implies that the UNDP supports their yes position.
The grossly biased way the government of Belize (G0B), along with its private sector counterpart entity, Citizens for the Defence of Sovereignty (CDS), have engaged in an outright, “yes” campaign, is unacceptable.
Belizeans expected an earnest effort to inform the citizenry concerning all aspects of this crucial issue. Of the numerous nationwide presentations made by the aforementioned, spearheaded solely by the Belize ministry of foreign affairs’ referendum education unit and funded from the considerable donations of the US Embassy and the UK government, save for one engagement, the PEACE Movement has been summarily and intentionally excluded. This, by any standards, is egregious at best and we hope that your organisation shares this view.
One need only take a cursory look at the unprecedented volume of “yes” propaganda that fills the airwaves and litters our cities, towns and rural areas in the form of: flags, t-shirts, billboards, hats and bags as well as ill-conceived and misguided events such as song competitions and the like.
To exacerbate matters, the GOB has further eroded the sanctity attributed to what is supposed to be an “education campaign,” by more recently billing activities as “fairs,” complete the with the age-old political trappings of providing live music, free food and drinks; all of which occurs in an environment that pushes an exclusive “yes” narrative.
Another example which depicts the intentional, exclusionary approach the GOB continues to employ involves the report of as many as four separate engagements with the ministry of health personnel, in which no one was invited to present the “no” position. Most disturbingly, that is but one of many such orchestrated instances, across the board.
What the GOB has been allowed to perpetrate and perpetuate, without official rebuke, is not only appalling, it is felonious! The UNDP must be aware of how significant a role that such unfettered actions by the GOB can play concerning:
(1) Short-changing the Belizean electorate by not equipping them with full disclosure, thereby decreasing the chances of them making an informed decision.
(2) Creating an overly politicised environment which fundamentally detracts from the salience of the Referendum is a national issue and thus relegating it to that of a political exercise.
(3) Ultimately disenfranchising scores of voters. Need we remind you that Belize signed on to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and thus far, to date, very little appears to have been manifest, moving forward toward its full implementation?
For your reference, the Belize PEACE Movement, by its mission statement, “…remains unconditionally committed to God and country and shall, therefore, act in Belize’s national interest, free from political influence and/or association. Thereby advocating and utilising: peaceful, just, sound, good governance principles and practices to create a culture of accountability and transparency, hence engendering a lasting consciousness among the citizenry, indicative of civic pride which proactively contributes toward ensuring Belize’s sustainable development.”
Bearing this in mind and being the only organised and self-funded entity that has proactively taken-up the mantle, along apolitical lines, to ensure the citizenry receives the full scope of this national concern, the PEACE Movement takes the aforementioned wrongdoings by the government of Belize and its agents, very serious.
Hence, we trust our commitment extends beyond April 10, 2019. In keeping with this notion, we ask whether the UNDP required the GOB to provide a strict accounting of the approximate BZ$1,425,000 we are aware they have access to as a result of the donations from the governments of the US and the UK. Of note that does not account for whatever contributions their private sector counterpart entity has solicited, presumably under the classification of a nonprofit organisation.
This is of concern because each presentation spearheaded by the GOB includes the CDS, thus resulting in participants receiving a double dose of government sanctioned ‘yes’ propaganda, to the exclusion of a dissenting sentiment.
With the well-being of Belize hanging in the balance as a result of the untenable and unconstitutional situation awaiting its citizens in the form of the upcoming referendum, the Belize PEACE Movement makes this appeal to you, within your capacity as the UNDP’s resident representative in Belize, to kindly address the issues highlighted in this correspondence.
By virtue of your organisation’s mandate, we trust that a timely and insightful response shall be forthcoming. Additionally, we would be remiss not to express our view that progressive action, beyond that of the standard acknowledgement, to adequately address these breaches of good governance practices and principles, would bode well to honour the theme of engendering democratic governance toward promoting a culture of anti-corruption.
Robert A Lopez
Belize PEACE Movement