Belize
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OCEANA Delivers Over 22,000 Petitions to Trigger Referendum

Jun 22, 2023

OCEANA Delivers Over 22,000 Petitions to Trigger Referendum

OCEANA Belize believes that Belizeans should decide whether the offshore oil moratorium should ever be lifted and so last year, it led an initiative to get the voting population to sign a petition to trigger a referendum. Between November 2022 and today, the N.G.O. was able to amass the signatures of over twenty-two thousand registered voters who want to be consulted before the moratorium is ever lifted. Vice President Janelle Chanona says that in accordance with the Referendum Act, OCEANA has exceeded the threshold of ten percent to trigger a referendum.

Janelle Chanona

Janelle Chanona, Vice President, OCEANA Belize

“We had and we remain dedicated towards strengthening the moratorium and we had approached the current administration to look at how we can strengthen the existing protection when we learnt that there was some consideration and intention to do seismic to “know what’s out there.” And we felt and continue to feel very strongly that the public deserves to be part of that decision-making process in terms of lifting the moratorium because seismic will constitute exploration and the current moratorium speaks to suspension of all exploration or extraction activities. At the end of the day, what this reiterates reminds and truly respects that Belizeans since 2010 have wanted to be part of the conversation on offshore oil, part of the decision and I think it is increasingly a point that this is environmental justice. I think it’s because the connection we have to our resources is so visceral. I mean who are we if we are not the second longest barrier reef ina di world? Who are we if we can’t go eat mango ina di sea? Who are we if we can’t go ketch the fish and then eat it same time? That is such a part of us and we see that even when we move out of Belize. That is the associations that we connect to when we are away from home. And I think that is truly what’s been the common line between 2010 and now. Why this emotion is so high around this issue because as I said, so many things fall off of the stove, back ah the stove, get lost, replaced by the scandal or the next big issue. But this issues, there has been persistence, resistance, perseverance. Belizeans really don’t want to be left out of this conversation because I think they fully grasp or very many Belizeans fully grasp what that would mean and just how inherently dirty and dangerous it is. And I think it is so, as I said that connectedness at a spiritual, at a soulful level, but also that realistic and very real interconnectedness in terms of our jobs, our way of life, our food, our cultures and I think increasingly it is not lost that environmental justice has and is now being perceived by many as a human right.”

Chanona says that over the past six months, they’ve vetted, confirmed by phone calls and even built in a rudimentary system to ensure that there is no arbitrary disqualification of the signatures.