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Apr 29, 2015

What’s the P.M.’s Take on CCJ’s Maya Land Rights Ruling?

Dean Barrow

The Caribbean Court of Justice issued a milestone decision on the issue of Maya land rights a week ago.  Since then the ruling, as well as the consent order, has been subject to legal interpretation.  This morning, during the prime minister’s press conference, he shared his understanding of the CCJ decision and what it means going forward.  He was also clear that damages won’t be offered to the Maya people of southern Belize.

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“Already there seems to be some dispute as to what the terms of the consent order really means.  Let me tell you what I understand, what was put to Cabinet by our lawyer on which, and it was on the basis of that position that we agreed.  We gave instruction for the matter to be settled.  That consent order does not find or establish that the Maya have indigenous title.  As I understand it, indigenous title is a term that carries a particular meaning in international law and practice.  In effect, if the Maya had indigenous title that would mean they would be entitled to communal land ownership.  The consent order does not establish that. What we conceded was that their claim to property rights, their entitlement, we conceded that there is an entitlement to property rights is on the basis of human rights. They’re human rights in domestic and international law.  It is now left for legislation to provide that Maya persons and villages may apply for the type of title they desire.  That law will make comprehensive provisions for who can get what.”

 

Reporter

“Sir, and why is it that the government resisted the Mayas claim for damages?  I understand that they are not asking for that much, it’s about one point five million Belize dollars.  Can you explain?”

 

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“It is not, to my mind, a claim rooted in law and I believe what I am told, the judges of the CCJ who might be inclined to have been sympathetic sort of said to our attorney, well maybe they haven’t made out a legal case for it but in the spirit of reconciliation this country, you know.”

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