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May 28, 2008

Mayans meet w/P.M. to discuss land rights case

Story PictureLast October Chief Justice Dr. Abdulai Conteh made a historic ruling in the Supreme Court when he upheld a claim that the Mayans of Southern Belize had constitutionally protected customary land tenure rights over the areas surrounding their communities. But months after the fact, there was no impact on the ground. In response to the inaction, in March the Maya Leaders Alliance of Southern Belize appointed a ten person team to negotiate with the Government on a process of implementation. But the two sides have been bucking heads on how to proceed. While the Mayans admit going back to court is an option, according to activist Greg Cho’c, the plan is to apply political pressure for a solution. Cho’c says following a meeting with Prime Minister Dean Barrow this morning, he’s confident the Government has renewed its mandate to respect the court’s ruling.

Greg Cho’c, Mayan Rights Activist
“There should be a process established, both to deal with the implementation of the judgment and other issues that for some communities and titleholders in Toledo who would like to see it resolved in an amicable way. So I think that is contrary to the discussion we’ve been having with the current government representative. So I think that with that in motion, I think that it will help to resolve the other issues that has emerged that is separate and in some cases integrated into the implantation of the judgment.”

Janelle Chanona
“Greg, knowing how complicated things can get, it won’t be simple to implement that judgment. Do you think you will have to go back to court for clarification?”

Greg Cho’c
“Well, you know I think it is important to exhaust all political remedies and it’s certainly the reason why we have been pushing for a process that establishes clear objective, clear outcome so that in a specific timetable, timeframe both parties can say we are trying to work it out, we are not making progress hence, we need to go back to court. I think that is the way we’d like to see it go and I think the discussion I’ve had with the Prime Minister this morning seem to be he is in agreement with that. So we will take a shot at it again. We will resolve it but nonetheless, we’ve agreed to disagree but disagree honestly on the issues. So I think that from here on, while certain process has been put in place, it’s not about trying to undermine any of each other’s interests, the Government or the community, but it’s about trying to ascertain if the political process does not provide an answer to some of the issues that have emerged.”

According to Cho’c those “issues” that have emerged include the fact that a portion of the land in question has recently been cultivated for agriculture by a non-Mayan in possession of lease documents, who also destroyed cacao and corn fields in the process of clearing the area.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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