“Yes, we will have a referendum."
This is how Prime Minister John Briceño answered The Reporter when asked whether he will be yielding to the collective voices of over 20,000 Belizeans who signed on to a petition requesting a referendum on the legalization of cannabis in Belize.
On Thursday, the Prime Minister told The Reporter, “The request and signatures have been sent to Chief Elections Officer for them to verify,” and once that process is finished, then, “yes there will be a referendum.”
The PM's comments to The Reporter come on the heels of the churches’ visit to the Governor General's office in Belmopan on Tuesday, in which they delivered the 20,108 signed petitions from Belizeans, thereby, surpassing the 10 percent threshold that they need to trigger a referendum under Section 2 of the Referendum Act.
Prior to the PM's comment, a Cabinet brief had also acknowledged the submission of the petitions to the Governor General. Cabinet also informed that the petitions are currently being vetted by the Elections and Boundaries Department.
Cabinet reiterated that they also remain “committed to continuing to shepherd the process with respect for all concerned and considers this an inspiring and encouraging part of Belize’s democratic system. Cabinet remains confident that in the end the right and best decisions will be made as a country.”
The Government added that it has remained committed to the consultation process in relation to the controversial bill and that while it has already received support from both the government and opposition in the National Assembly, they will hold off on asking the Governor General to assent to the bill.
While we asked the Prime Minister whether he and his government are prepared to honor the outcome of the referendum, he held off on that comment. However, it must be noted that while under the Referendum Act the Government is required by law to host a referendum once the 10% threshold has been met, they are not legally required to honor the results of the referendum, as it is consultative and, therefore, not binding on Government. The only cost, of course, would be a political one.