By Michelle Sutherland
President of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) Luke Martinez is also addressing statements made by the Minister of New Growth Industries, who suggested recently that the Cabinet would have to decide what happens with the referendum petition.
Martinez told the Reporter, “I am trying to see where the Cabinet falls in making a decision as it relates to a referendum because the Referendum Act is very clear.”
We are hoping that maybe there was some mistake in that pronouncement or I don't know,” Martinez said. “I would want him to publicly clarify those comments and show where the Cabinet makes such a decision, and maybe with his legal expertise, he could interpret those sections of the Referendum Act, and how it ties in with a cabinet decision.”
Also calling out Musa for his comments that the churches were a bit too late in gathering their petition was Pastor Louis Wade, who is a member of the National Evangelical Association of Belize (NEAB).
He too clarified to the Reporter that the triggering of a referendum has nothing to do with Cabinet. Wade said, "The thing that triggers a referendum is the 10 percent of signatures from those on the electoral list, and whose signatures have been vetted and approved by the Elections and Boundaries Department, after submission to the Governor-General. So it does not have anything to do with ministers or Cabinet."
Wade and Martinez both made reference to section 2 of the Referendum Act which reads: "Subject to the provisions of this Act, a referendum shall be held in any of the following circumstances ... where a petition is presented to the Governor-General signed by at least ten percent of the registered electors in Belize whose names appear in the approved voters’ list existing at the time of presentation of the petition."
Wade also clarified that there is no fixed deadline in trying to secure the signatures for the petition but that the timeline presented so far reflects NEAB's internal timeline.
Martinez reiterated the need for the government to continue with the consultations since he says that the public is also expecting a referendum to gauge the overall pulse of the nation. “This is more than just smoking week: it is more than just a moral issue. It's economic; it's commercial… How it is going to benefit the country?”
Last week apart from claiming that the Churches were a bit late in requesting a referendum on the legalization of marijuana, Musa claimed that even if they were able to collect signatures from 10% of the voting population the final authorization would come from Cabinet.