June 15, 2018
Office of the Prime Minister of Belize
The Rt. Honorable Dean Barrow
Belizean Citizens Abroad (BCA) is reaching out to you in your official capacity as Prime Minister of Belize and head of Elections and Boundaries to address a very important constitutional matter.
As you are aware, on July 2, 2018, in accordance with our Constitution, the Election and Boundaries office will engage in a re-registration exercise whereby the old voters list will be discarded and started anew. The Belize Government has set a referendum date, April 2019, so that Belizean citizens can determine whether the International Court of Justice will settle the dispute between Belize and Guatemala. The re-registration process will greatly impact the outcome of the ICJ vote and future Elections.
The Belize Constitution clearly states, “No person shall be entitled under the provisions of this Part to be a citizen of Belize or be granted citizenship of Belize if such person shows any allegiance to or is Citizen of a country that does not recognize the independence, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Belize. [29 (3) of the Belize Constitution].” We suspect that this part of our Constitution was included to protect Belize from a neighbor who claims our territory as well as to prevent Belize’s small population from being overtaken by neighbors who have millions of citizens. Over the years, though, subsequent governments in Belize have violated our Constitution by granting Guatemalans Belizean citizenship for political expediency, despite the clear exception written into the Constitution and without any evidence of Guatemalans renouncing their Guatemalan citizenship prior to acquiring Belizean citizenship.
It is often reported that Guatemalans arrive by the busloads, cross our border and vote in our general elections. Belize governments have fielded Guatemalan citizens to contest conventions to be area representatives, which violates our laws. Due to inaction and failure of a check and balance system, today we are faced with a constitutional crisis of immeasurable proportions.
On May 10, 2018, Mrs. Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer, issued a statement to the media, which states, “Once someone [Guatemalans] has a legitimate document and they bring that document to us, then we must accept the document” — unless it has been revoked, but it has not been revoked as of today. On May 16, 2018, you held a press conference and publicly stated that Guatemalans cannot be citizens of Belize due to the constitutional restrictions and a failed renunciation process, and while you offered sympathies to the Guatemalans for being recipients of documents unconstitutionally issued by the governments of Belize, no solutions to the crisis were offered. You also did not comment on the re-registration process where one can anticipate Guatemalans will re-register to vote with the said documents the Chief Elections Officer stated will be accepted as legitimate evidence of citizenship; the same documents you stated were unconstitutional.
The Belize Nationality Act further states in Chapter V Sec 19: “In any case where any person purports to renounce citizenship of any country for the purpose of acquiring, retaining or resuming, under any provision of this Act, the status of a citizen of Belize, and it is found at any time that the renunciation was not in accordance with or not effective under the law in force in that behalf in such other country, that person shall be deemed never to have acquired, retained or resumed, under that provision, that status of a citizen of Belize; and if the Minister makes a declaration to that effect in any such case, the declaration shall be final.”
If this re-registration is allowed to continue in its current format, Belize will be ignoring laws, knowingly accepting illegitimate documents, and operating outside its constitutional constraints; and the re-registration process will be corrupted and Belize’s credibility may be at stake when we ask the International Court of Justice to respect treaties based on the rule of law.
The fact remains that constitutionally Guatemalans cannot attain Belizean citizenship. Citizenship is a requirement to vote. We are a constitutional democracy that ought to operate within the rule of law. We are asking that you act by creating the necessary due diligence to ensure the Belize re-registration process and subsequent elections are legal, fair and transparent. This issue is extremely important as we decide the trajectory of Belize’s future with the ICJ. The current re-registration process also has some serious national security implications.
We also understand the human rights aspect of this matter and suggest a provisional permanent residence status be given to Guatemalans affected by this violation of our laws; this would also allow them to remain in Belize. If Guatemala relinquishes her claim to Belize, Belizean citizenship to Guatemalans can be revisited.
We anticipate that you will correct this process that has now reached crisis levels and anticipate a favorable response from you.
Belizean Citizens Abroad (BCA)
Hubert Pipersburgh, President