Headline — 20 February 2019 — by Rowland A. Parks
PUP leads protest against Vital Statistics office

BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 18, 2019– With the International Court of Justice referendum just around the corner on April 10, public attention is once more focused on the Vital Statistics Unit, which is the office where citizens go to get birth certificates and other documents necessary to complete the re-registration process in order for them to get re-registered so that they can vote in the upcoming referendum.

This afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition, People’s United Party, Hon. John Briceño, along with other PUP area representatives and standard bearers, descended on the Vital Statistics Unit at its new address on Queen Street, where they held placards, protesting the shabby treatment of Belizeans who are unable to get their documents and in some cases have had to make multiple trips to the unit, only to walk away empty-handed.

Hon. Briceño told reporters that there has been great frustration across Belize on the part of Belizeans who have not been able to get their birth certificates and are thus unable to register.

Hon. Briceño stressed that there are thousands of Belizeans who have not been able to get their birth papers.

“The government even changed the law so that the Attorney General’s ministry is not responsible for Vital Statistics,” said Hon. Briceño.

“We don’t need to change the law; we need to fix what’s going on,” Briceño said, “it is ridiculous. We are going to spend millions of dollars for the ICJ referendum and thousands of Belizeans will not be able to vote.”

There were a number of PUP area representatives from the north, south, east and west of the country, and all of them expressed the same sentiments. Their supporters and constituents were being disenfranchised by the inefficiency and incompetence of the people who are running the Vital Statistics Unit, they said.

Hon. Briceño said, “We have to bring up this situation in the National Assembly. All of our representatives and standard bearers are being affected by this situation. We cannot continue with this disrespect.”

Hon. Oscar Requeña, area representative for Toledo East, said that they have raised the matter in the House of Representatives, but “it all falls on deaf ears.”

Hon. Requena said that when Hon. Wilfred Elrington was in charge of the Vital Statistics Unit, “we met with him and raised the matter with him, all to no avail. I have hundreds of people who have been taken off the list, and they are born Belizeans, but because they cannot find their papers, they are not allowed to be registered.”

Hon. Requeña added, “You come here to the office and a lot of the times they can’t find the paper, the rats eat the page, all kinds of excuses. This is the reality. It is unfair to disenfranchise born Belizeans.”

Hon. Briceño was asked if the PUP will renew the call for a delay of the referendum.

“The government needs to do the right thing and change the date of the referendum,” Hon. Briceño responded.

Hon. Briceño said the supporters of the government do not face any difficulties in getting their birth certificates and documents.

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Deshawn Swasey

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