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Jan 14, 2016

MLA Was Not Formally Notified of Appointment of Commission

Cristina Coc

On Tuesday, government announced that members of the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission have been named.  The official appointment of former minister Lisel Alamilla, Noreen Fairweather and Randall Sheppard as chair and members, respectively, precedes their work in implementing the Consent Order of the Caribbean Court of Justice.  The order mandates government to adopt affirmative measures to identify and protect the rights arising from Maya customary land tenure.  The taskforce is expected to work closely with representative organizations of the Maya community, including the MLA.  But, is the Attorney General’s Ministry off to a wrong start by not formally notifying the Maya Leaders Alliance of the appointment of the commission?  While it not a no big deal for the organization, its members say that communication between the relevant parties would have been through official channels.  Nonetheless, MLA spokesperson Cristina Coc told News Five earlier today that they are prepared to undertake the work that needs to be done in honoring the consent order.

 

On the Phone: Cristina Coc, Spokesperson, MLA

“We learnt of the appointment of the commission that will look after the implementation of the Maya Land Rights decision from the Caribbean Court of Justice.  We learnt of it by way of a news, a press release and a news coverage on Love FM and various media houses.  Perhaps not to emphasize this point but really just to put on the record, we would have appreciated some direct communication from the government of the establishment of this commission so that we didn’t have to continue to learn of information like this from the press.  I think that this would have been consistent with their commitment to act in good faith.  Nonetheless, we hope that direct communication can be made to our representative bodies, primarily the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association.  We anticipate as well, as has been instructed by the Caribbean Court of Justice that the government makes a full report of the steps that they have taken thus far in January twenty-first.  And so we anticipate that a full report is forthcoming and we look forward to reading that.  We are optimistic, we feel very pleased that the government has established this commission as has been ordered by the Caribbean Court of Justice and we expect the government to move forward in good faith as it has expressed an intention to do so.  We haven’t heard or seen anything specific about the method of the consultation that they will do but we expect the government to follow the requirements of the Caribbean Court of Justice and also that of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  That is to consult through the Maya people’s chosen representative institutions and through our customary decision making processes.  Right along those lines we also expect the government commission to consult with the Maya communities in accordance with the Maya Consultation Framework.  We are confident that the government has been delivered the Maya Consultation Framework and the relevant government departments.  We are going to, again just out of caution, we are going to send again another formal copy of the Maya Consultation Framework to the now appointed chairman of the commission Ms. Lisel Alamilla.  So we hope that as the consultations move forward we hope that the government will comply again with the Caribbean Court of Justice’s order, particularly in complying with Paragraph Four which basically says that, you know, they should not allow any kind of land incursions, concessions or defiance on Maya lands without the consultation and consent of the Maya communities.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“This not being a personal issue, are you guys as a collective comfortable with the composition of the commission, in terms of the individuals who are named to this particular body?”

 

On the Phone: Cristina Coc

“Absolutely.  We have no feelings one way or the other with the individuals named to head the commission.  We expect and we hope that these individuals would have been given full authority to make decisions on behalf of the government and the state of Belize with respect to negotiating this implementation.  For us, we are prepared to work with whomever the government feels is best suited to represent them.  So we’re prepared, we also have a formal body, a steering committee who will head up the negotiations from our end.”

 

A press brief on the Government of Belize on the Mayan Commission is scheduled for Friday morning in Belize City.

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