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Jul 12, 2018

SolGen Says Jalacte Claim is Way Out of Time

A lawsuit involving the Government of Belize, brought against the Office of the Attorney General by residents of Jalacte Village, is being heard before Justice Michelle Arana.  On Wednesday, submissions were made by attorneys representing members of that Mayan community.  They argued that government failed to seek the free, prior and informed consent of villagers before erecting a BAHA outpost and constructing a two-mile stretch of road which cuts through communal lands.  Collectively, the village of Jalacte is seeking millions of dollars in compensation for the loss of traditional lands that were being used for farming and agriculture.  Today, Solicitor General Nigel Hawke told the media that the road and the Belize Agriculture Health Authority’s substation were completed before the ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice in 2015.  Not only is the claim being made long after the fact, the SolGen says the constitutional authority of government, in the event of a crisis situation, overrides their fundamental rights.

 

Nigel Hawke

Nigel Hawke, Solicitor General

“Our position is really that the construction of the highway happened long before the 2015 decision of the CCJ and as a consequence, we are saying there would have been consultations with the village, the leaders of the village and members of the village before that construction would have happened.  In fact, there was an environmental impact assessment done and all of that.  So we’re saying first, it happened long before the actual decision because I’ve heard assertions that we violated the order of the CCJ.  So that needs to be put right, our assertion is that it happened before.  The second point we are making is that when you look at when they brought this claim as against when the actual cause of action arose, we’re saying they’re way out of time.  We’re saying, on the consequences of delay, the case ought not to go forward.  And then there are two other fundamental points, even if we use the argument that the CCJ decision looms large, part of that same consent order says that the constitutional authority of the Government of Belize remains.  And we are saying, one of our defenses is that at that time there was a serious outbreak of med-fly disease.  Our position is, are you telling us that if there is a terrible outbreak of some disease and for the preservation of life, safety of members of the public generally, we are not allowed to do anything as a government in that area?  So our position is, because of one of the exceptions, that’s an exception to your fundamental right where there is some great emergency in terms of public health, we are saying the incidences of your fundamental are somewhat eroded in those circumstances.  So that is another issue we raised in the case.  Those are the issues that we have to decide in the end.”

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