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Jun 30, 2010

Mayas celebrate courtroom decision despite GOB’s plan to appeal

Thirty-eight Mayan communities in the south are still reeling from a third legal victory, which affirms their rights to customary land tenure. That ruling was on Monday in the Supreme Court by Chief Justice Abdulai Conteh. Today the Maya Leaders Alliance issued its interpretation of the judgment. The Mayas also take issue with government’s intention to appeal the landmark decision. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has been following this story and has a report.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The three-page release issued today puts into perspective the ruling delivered by the Chief Justice on Monday. The Maya Leaders Alliance states that “The rights allow the Maya communities to decide what form of tenure should exist over their lands in accordance with their own values, and are the same rights afforded to all other Belizeans under the Constitution”.

MLA’s spokeswoman Cristina Coc says the ruling will in no way hinder the development of southern Belize.  In fact, Coc stated that in the past there have been government-helmed development projects in the district that have proved counterproductive.

Cristina Coc, Spokesperson, Maya Leaders Alliance

cristina coc

“We have never denied development, we have only asked for a development that is defined by our identity; a development that we define as a Maya people. Not a development that is imposed on us, not concepts and projects and programs that are imposed on us.  We have seen many development projects come to Toledo and it has done more damage than good to our people so we are at a very important point where now we can define our development.  Now the management of these lands are left in our hands and certainly we’re not moving backwards, we’re moving together with our country Belize.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2004 established that the Maya have collective rights to land they have traditionally occupied and used.  The IACHR further suggested that government outlined and designated Maya land in association with the people. That request fell on deaf ears and subsequently a suit was filed against GOB.  Senior Counsel Antoinette Moore pointed out that the victory should be shared by the entire nation.

antoinette moore

Antoinette Moore, Attorney, MLA

“This should be a victory for all Belizeans.  The government of Belize should be pleased at this outcome.  We know that they are not but we wish that they could see it through a different lens. It’s a critical, critical judgment and it’s a critical movement that the Maya people are engaged in.”

The release however, expressed clearly their dissatisfaction with the way the government has treated the Maya people. It says “The government must change its defiant, antagonistic attitude towards to Maya people. The recent grant of a logging concession in Conejo Village in contravention of the Supreme Court order and the confiscation of bay leaves from Conejo show that the government has been unwilling to respect the constitutional rights of the Maya people and the decisions of the judiciary. These concessions, the concession for petroleum granted to US Capitol Energy, and the hydro electric development project in the Rio Grande basin should all be reviewed as they were not granted with full, prior and informed consent from affected Maya communities.”

Taking into consideration the legal proceedings that have ensued over the past ten years, Dr. Conteh recommended a partnership between government and the Maya people in carrying out the findings of the Supreme Court. Representatives from the Maya Leaders Alliance will appear on Open Your Eyes tomorrow morning to discuss the way forward for the greater indigenous community. Reporting for News Five, Isani Cayetano.

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1 Response for “Mayas celebrate courtroom decision despite GOB’s plan to appeal”

  1. Friend says:

    First time i see cristina in a suit like that. She aint fighting for the cause of the Maya ok. She is singing for her supper. Cristina is a false prophet. i am a mayan and i dont check out these moves at all. infact many dont support this so call customary rights. Its in their favor to keep it that way cause that is the only way the funds will keep coming. And the village alcaldes – they just dont know much less understand what they went to do to Belize City. They just go for the ride.

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