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Feb 19, 2018

C.C.J. Puts Pressure on Gov’t to Honor Consent Order

The Mayas of southern Belize continue their fight with the Government of Belize, represented by the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission to enforce the historic consent order made on April twenty-second, 2015, to develop a mechanism to recognize the already agreed communal land rights of the indigenous Maya people. But they continue to quarrel over two basic points: how to move forward from the consultation process, and how to resolve disputes that threaten the sovereignty of the Maya’s acknowledged territory. The Commission, Government and Maya Leaders Alliance/Toledo Alcaldes Association were back before the Caribbean Court of Justice, which laid extra pressure on Belmopan to step to the plate. News Five’s Aaron Humes has an update on the Government’s latest lifeline.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

The Government of Belize has been put on serious notice by the Caribbean Court of Justice: it must move faster to implement the consent order signed three years ago after a panel of the highest-ranking court appeared in Belize to hear arguments. For the Maya Leaders Alliance and Toledo Alcaldes Association, headed by Cristina Coc, it cannot come soon enough.

 

Cristina Coc

Cristina Coc, Spokesperson, MLA/TAA

“The twenty-seventh of February was set because today was meant for the Commission and the State to deliver their proposals for a roadmap, a work plan for the implementation. They failed to meet that deadline and so they were given a new deadline. They have also failed to meet many other deliverables that were outlined in the previous hearing with the C.C.J., which they have also not met. And so the court felt that there was no use to have this session unless those deliverables were actually given to the court. And so they’ve been given yet another amount of time to basically produce the things the court is asking them to produce.”

 

And while the Government fiddles, Coc says, the Mayas’ ancestral lands, literally and figuratively burn.

 

Cristina Coc

“While we continue to debate on the dates and the frameworks and the mechanisms that are supposed to be put in place to protect our rights as indigenous people, we continue to see the loss of our resources; we continue to see the incursions and the injustice on our lands. And what we’ve impressed on the court – and I am happy to say today that the court seems to have begun to see how this problem has to stop; in fact one of the justices said it very clearly – ‘this can’t continue, we have to stop this’ – and so they have set a date, later this week, to develop a dispute resolution framework which would determine then how it is that complaints are taken and how it is that these issues are resolved. And I’m very pleased to hear that the court has taken a very direct and involved position on this particular issue, because we don’t want twenty years to go by and there is no implementation and our resources are completely, completely wiped out.”

 

Coc says the MLA and TAA continue to be sidelined by the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission, which claims complete authority over the process. But they will now lean on the Court to properly enforce their rights and bring a hasty conclusion to a generation of conflict.

 

Cristina Coc

“The Commission continues to inadequately meet, and in fact seems to display a resistance to meet with us, let alone consult with us. They continue to take the position that they are the government agent and they are in charge and it is their decision to make whether or not to meet with us. And we continue to say that this has to be an open dialogue; this has to be a consultation, and for consultation to happen both parties have to sit and both parties have to dialogue and both parties have to agree. The Maya people are a very patient people, and we are a very resilient people. We continue to impress upon the State their legal obligation but they also have a political obligation. They know and recognize that the Maya people continue to be citizens of this nation-state, and we continue to impress on the State to, if not by way of legal obligation, but they have a political mandate and they need to address these concerns immediately and effectively, and if they find that the mechanisms they have put in place or the institutions they have put in place are ineffective to do so, then basically they need to review their own systems and they need to decide whether or not these institutions are serving the purpose that they have laid out.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

The case resumes on Thursday, February twenty-second and again next Tuesday, February twenty-seventh.

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