BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 4, 2019– The numbers for the amount of Belizeans who have been able to re-register and get on the voters list have dropped precipitously; add to that the frustration many citizens are facing in their encounters at the Vital Statistics Unit.
For one family, however, it was more than frustrating when they were told that there is no paperwork verifying that their patriarch was ever registered, so he has to be recommended by someone who is 10 years older than he is.
That is the predicament the family of long-time Belizean educator, Joseph Alexander Bennett, finds themselves in.
The 89-year-old Bennett was born in March 1929, in Belize, but there is no record of his birth at the Vital Statistics Unit, notwithstanding the fact that he had a voter’s identification card.
This has proven to be quite a frustrating challenge for Bennett’s family, who are trying to assist him to register so that he can vote in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) referendum on April 10.
Bennett has other identification documents, such as a social security card and an expired passport, which suggest that at some point he must have gotten a birth certificate.
One of Bennett’s sons, Hilaire Bennett, told News5 on Friday that his father “… has not gotten registered, re-registered up to date today. The basic challenge is that the evidence is not there. They are saying that the page has been torn out. That is what is coming out. Let me put on record that it is somebody that went to make the application that was told that, so I don’t want to go on the record that they told me. But it shows that it is a dire situation. It shows incompetence. It shows total disregard for a sensitive department as is, birth and records. It is crucial for the electoral process as we see the re-registration in full gear right now. And with the ICJ. referendum coming shortly I don’t know if we would have enough time to get that done.”
Bennett went on to explain to Hipolito Novelo from News5 what it is that the Vital Statistics Unit requires for his father to get a copy of his birth certificate:
“The recommendation of Vital Stats is that he gets a declaration but the person has to be ten years older than him. He is eighty-nine. Other than that they said maybe we can go to the college that he went and maybe they might have the information. Someone is looking into that. There is one other option, but I can’t bring it right now, but I was thinking about Social Security might have a copy of a birth certificate because he got his social security card. His social security card, his passport, and his voter’s ID is in his name, Joseph Alexander Bennett. It is kind of ridiculous that this evidence are that this man is who he is supposed to be, but then, the records are not in the place where we should find it, which is Vital Stats,” he said.
According to the Elections and Boundaries Department, “Persons can only register if they satisfy all the requirements including proof of nationality. For those that Vital Statistics cannot find, those persons need to go through the late registration process at Vital Statistics Unit. Once they do that to the satisfaction of Vital Statistics Unit then they will be issued a birth certificate. The re-registration exercise is a clean-up exercise. If EBD will accept only on the basis that the person was previously registered then the re-registration would be a waste.”
There is a real possibility that Bennett will not be able to vote in the referendum. How many more persons out there are facing the difficulties that Joseph Alexander Bennett is facing?