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Oct 30, 2015

Pablo Mis on Jalacte and Agriculture Learning Center

Earlier this week, the Maya community of Jalacte staged a peaceful protest against the inauguration of an Agriculture Learning Center in the village.  The building was constructed by the Ministry of Agriculture and was set to open its doors on Wednesday.  While the grand opening has been called off, residents are incensed that government would proceed to erect a structure on communal land without first consulting with them or seeking their approval.  Jalacte is among thirty-eight indigenous communities that exercise customary law, an age-old practice that has been affirmed by the highest courts in the region.  MLA Program Coordinator Pablo Mis explains their position.

 

Pablo Mis

Pablo Mis, Program Coordinator, MLA

“The position of Jalacte is very simple, it is similar to all the thirty-nine communities.  That is that each of these thirty-nine communities are property owners which means that nobody including myself cannot just go unto any piece of their community land and do as I please and I think that is essentially what has happened in the case of Jalacte where a learning center is being established and the community was never properly consulted.  They never gave their consent and now they are saying that we will not be a part of condoning injustices against us.  And in light of this decision then I would want to preempt that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government of Belize would respond to the pleas of the community and that is that “please sit with us, let’s work this out and let’s move forward with the development of our communities, of Belize in a manner that really responds to the desires and aspirations of all of Belize, including the Maya communities and including Jalacte. A week before the proposed inauguration, the Chief Forestry Officer for the first time brought together the leaders of that area and they explained that there are two multimillion dollar projects that they intend to initiate for the corridor that is along the highway there.  Essentially the idea really is for the communities to better prepare themselves for the changes that are going to come about from the highway.  That is a fact that is recognized by the communities and the support that can be given by the state to prepare the communities for those changes is something that is welcomed.  But the position really is that it cannot be at the expense of violating the rights of community members and community people who use land and making their livelihoods in areas where now, for instance, the learning center is being established.”

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