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Oct 22, 2013

SATIIM versus U.S. Capital…day one in court

SATIIM, the Mayan communities in the Sarstoon-Temash buffer zone, U.S. Capital Energy and the Government of Belize had their day in court today – or at least the first day, since arguments are complicated and protracted. The claimants in the case are SATIIM and four Mayan Communities – Crique Sarco, Conejo, Graham Creek and Midway. In a nutshell, the claim is that government has trampled on the rights of Mayans to customary land title, by giving US Capital Energy the green light to work and explore for oil within that land – without consultation or input. As we said, it’s a complicated issue and attorneys from all sides are presenting intricate and compelling arguments. Today, it got underway and Mike Rudon was at the Supreme Court.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

As they’ve done whenever this or related matters have been explored by the Courts, Mayan villagers made the long trek to the city this morning. Attorney Eamon Courtenay is representing the claimants, and opened up with arguments just after eleven this morning. A major premise of the case presented by the claimants is tied to the Supreme Court decision of 2007 which affirmed the Mayan rights to customary land. The argument is that government is allowing drilling on Mayan communal lands without the informed consent of the Mayans, and in fact without any consultation at all.

 

Greg Ch’oc

Greg Ch’oc, Executive Director, SATIIM

“One of the many grounds on which we have filed the claim has to do with the government granting a production sharing agreement and not adhering to the issues related to the Maya customary title of the communities which relies on the other ground – the right of free prior consent which the Supreme Court established in 2007. We believe that it is fundamentally important to tie all of these rights affirmed by the court and international laws that Belize has ratified to bring bearing on the government’s issuance of development concessions…one of them being oil development under the production sharing agreement.”

 

There is another critical argument. The land in question is part of a national park. So does that give government the right to say what happens inside it, or will the rights affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2007 prevail?

 

Greg Ch’oc

“We’ve been public about our position that we still consider the land within the park as Mayan traditional land and obviously we are laying out the claim and the evidence that has already been determined by the Court in 2007 to bring up to date the court on those evidence that have been determined to ensure that there is no ventilation of those matters that have already been determined by the court. So we maintain that it is Mayan customary land and that has been vindicated by the Court.”

 

Whether it will be upheld by this Court…only time will tell! Choc seems to feel that the matter could have been settled differently if government had acted differently. He believes that it could have been possible for all parties to achieve their goals with respect from all sides.

 

Greg Ch’oc

“I think there is always a win-win situation. That is what this struggle is about. I think that in other circumstances there would not have been the need to come to Court to get rights that have been affirmed by the Constitution to have the court vindicate those rights once more. I think that there is a win-win situation and the government is really the balancing factor here that can really make the kind of win-win situation possible.”

 

Meanwhile, SATIIM is still the proud owner of a persona non grata status, banned from entering the national park – not that it has stopped them from doing just that.

 

Greg Ch’oc

“The government has made a decision and we have taken a decision and we are going by the decision that we have taken and obviously it is easy to revoke a concession – it is more difficult to put people on the ground to deter the illegal activities that happened in the park on a daily basis that we have been able to deter as a result of our presence on the ground, so we are on the ground.”

 

Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

U.S. Capital Energy is being represented by attorney Michael Peyrefitte, while government is being represented by attorney Denys Barrow. Arguments continued this afternoon, and are expected to conclude on Wednesday.

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2 Responses for “SATIIM versus U.S. Capital…day one in court”

  1. mark says:

    Greg needs to stop use the indigenous people name to hustle money from foreign organizations provide scholarship for indigenous students from the buffer communities and stop think bout he self only his daughter is studying to be a lawyer what are the communities getting ??? nothing so wake up greg and stop use the indigenous just to get rich he has a big time house in PG from money he the lobby for from foreign organizations

  2. dreadindio says:

    Mark: stop envy the brother, you are like crab weh wa step pan other to get out of the pan.

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