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Oct 30, 2017

Mayas Back in Court, C.C.J. Leans on Government over Consent Order

The Government of Belize has been given one last chance by the Caribbean Court of Justice to live up to its promises made in April of 2015, when it agreed and consented that the Maya of the Toledo District have a right to communal land title among the villages in which they are the majority. The Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission has been carrying out extensive consultation but both the Maya Leaders Alliance and Toledo Alcaldes Association want to see action on the ground and inclusion in their process. Aaron Humes has an update on what was agreed to before the C.C.J. this afternoon.

 

Lisel Alamilla

Lisel Alamilla, Chair, Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission

“It’s slow, yes; I wish that it had been finished by now but it’s not, and like I said earlier, everything is a slow process. Remember too – I think everyone needs to be cognizant – that this exercise is very, very expensive, and I don’t think it’s fair to expect the Government of Belize to have the millions of dollars necessary to carry out this exercise in a meaningful manner; so it is also affected by what we have available in our budget.”

 

Aaron Humes Reporting:

But the Caribbean Court of Justice is not in the habit of having its orders ignored, so with the prompting of the Maya Leaders Alliance and Toledo Alcaldes Association, it’s asking the Government and the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission to move faster. By the end of this year, the C.C.J. panel ordered today, the Commission should have completed its work plan, including plans to demarcate the respective village boundaries and a definition of communal rights versus individual rights. But the complainants are hardly thrilled.

 

Pablo Mis

, Program Coordinator, MLA/TAA

“No, there’s nothing much that the Maya people should have expected or can be expecting in their future. We are very concerned about the orders that we had to negotiate our way with today. We recognize that these are issues that ultimately the Government will have to take leadership in; we were hoping that the Government would allow for a space for the Maya people, to be a part of understanding how exactly we should be dealing with these injustices. Out of the five issues that we had to address today, we had to negotiate four of them. We will tell you clearly that we are not truly satisfied. We don’t accept, any at all, the justification to say that other countries have taken hundreds of years to settle the matter. Belize needs to take up its own responsibility; it needs to take a bold step towards addressing the issues of the Maya people.”

 

The court took it upon itself to intervene but Mis and Alamilla disagree on whether the Maya should have a say at all in the Commission – an argument dating back to the body’s formation.

 

Pablo Mis

“Remember that this case came about because the Maya people felt they were being discriminated against – just to be reminded, boldly, in front of the learned justices that thought this was the beginning of the healing of an historic injustice – just to be reminded that no, the Maya people should not be a part of the term of charting the way forward, is very, very regrettable.”

 

Lisel Alamilla

“I don’t see why everyone seems to think that the only way you can engage the Maya people is through the Commission; the Commission is facilitating a process, it is engaging other stakeholders, and so there are other mechanisms available – whether you’re consuoting directly with their steering committee or their technical committee, whichever group they organize. I don’t know why the insistence for the process to be inclusive and transparent it requires them to sit on the Commission; at this moment that is not the opinion of… Out: 3:54 …the Government of Belize.”

 

Opinions can of course be changed. That, says Mis, includes the Mayas of the government’s good faith.

 

Pablo Mis

“Belize, as a government, needs to first of all build its relationship with the Maya people in order for us to harness these willing possibilities – whether it be financial support to the process or whether it be technical support to the process; I think it is out there. But where we are stumbling right now – and again, I think it is clearly and explicitly broadcast throughout the world this afternoon, that we will continue to thread the issue of whether the Maya people should be intimately involved in discussing how to implement the orders.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

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