In response to a featured article in the Amandala, Belizean Diaspora – No Representation without Taxation!, written by Cedric Flowers, published July 19, 2017, Belizean Citizens Abroad (BCA) wishes to respond by saying that we find this article egregious in so many ways. Instead of bridging the gap that divides us, Mr. Flowers continues to feed into the divide by fanning the flames that exist between us.
Firstly, he negatively defines us as “agitators” rather than “advocates” fighting for our rights. Secondly, by deductive reasoning, it appears Mr. Flowers believes that in addition to boosting the economy of Belize by sending home remittances to our families, contributing to the education of many at home via scholarships, and the myriad ways in which Belizeans in the diaspora contribute, HE is now “agitating” that WE should be taxed at home!
This article strikes a similar tone to one that was penned some three years ago that demanded to know, “Diaspora, what have you done for me lately?” The unfortunate divide that exists between Belizeans at home and abroad persists and continues to be encouraged by some. This unfortunate divide is also enshrined in our Constitution as well as in the hearts and minds of many like Mr. Flowers, who are reacting to efforts by some of us seeking a national, solidarity effort to remove the discriminatory provisions in our Constitution that we believe would unify Belizeans at home and abroad.
Thirdly, Mr. Flowers also confuses the entire issue; therefore, BCA wishes to clarify that as our Constitution now stands, a born Belizean with dual nationality who returns to live in Belize cannot run for national, elective office no matter how long they have lived in Belize and no matter how much taxes they would be required to pay, UNLESS and UNTIL they give up their dual nationality. Again, we remind you, this applies only to born Belizeans.
Furthermore, Belizean Citizens Abroad, as an organization, is not arguing that a Belizean living abroad should be able to run for political office to represent Belizeans at home while they continue to reside abroad. We are simply advocating (not agitating) that our Constitution be amended to remove the discriminatory provisions that affect ONLY born Belizeans so that ANY BORN Belizean with dual nationality who returns home and meets all residency and other reasonable and non-discriminatory requirements could run for elective office if he or she so chooses, just like any other dual national who currently can. We are not asking for special privileges; we are simply seeking that the full citizenship rights of born Belizeans, who gain dual nationality, be restored.
This divide that persists is harmful to our social fabric and our Belizean identity. There will come a time in the not-so-distant future when foreign-born Belizeans (including Guatemalans) will pursue their rights, under our Constitution, to hold public office, yet born Belizeans cannot. While there is nothing wrong with welcoming foreigners there is something terribly wrong with denying our own brothers and sisters born on Belizean soil the rights and privileges afforded to others. We cannot continue to discriminate against our own.
Thousands of born Belizeans and many more in the future will gain a second nationality by uttering the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Many do so for any number of reasons, but never because they don’t love Belize. As a result, we are singled out in our Constitution and treated as though we are traitors guilty of treason. We are barred from serving in the House of Representatives and Senate unless we renounce our dual nationality. No other dual-national Belizeans, not even those born in Guatemala, are treated this way; only born Belizeans. There is absolutely no reason for this discrimination to continue.
Cedric Flowers argues that all Belizeans who reside abroad must be prepared to pay; as if Belizeans who reside abroad don’t already pay. The defenders of the status quo, along with the discriminatory provisions in our Constitution, always seek to dismiss our remittances and contributions instead of recognizing it as evidence of our love, loyalty and commitment that Belizeans who reside abroad maintain for their homeland. More importantly, Belizeans in the diaspora do pay a number of other taxes in Belize including property tax, import duties, and value added tax…especially for all those “boxes from states” we send home to our families.
In conclusion, let us not focus on what divides, but on that which unites us! It is clear this will take our collective, cooperative will!”
Belizean Citizens Abroad