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Apr 4, 2014

Environmental community supports Supreme Court decision in SATIIM/GOB lawsuit

On Thursday, Justice Michelle Arana handed down a judgment in favor of the Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management. Justice Arana declared that the decision of the Government of Belize to allow oil drilling and road construction in the National Park is irrational and unreasonable since it was made without the free prior and informed consent of the indigenous Maya communities and that the GOB’s decision to allow oil drilling and road construction in the National Park is in breach of the legitimate expectation of the indigenous Mayas. Since then, there has been an overwhelming outpour of support from the environmental community, as well as other organizations that object to oil prospecting within the Sarstoon-Temash National Park. In a joint release issued today, the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association expressed its gratitude to the Supreme Court for reaffirming the rights of the indigenous community, particularly where it concerns customary land rights.  Both organizations will be taking their claim to the Caribbean Court of Justice later this year where they will be seeking an order for the Government of Belize to recognize and respect the rights of the Maya people under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  Similarly, Oceana and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage have issued a joint statement declaring the victory a triumph for all Belizeans.  The release goes on to say, (Quote) “Madam Justice Michelle Arana’s historic ruling on April third, 2014 affirmed those rights when the Supreme Court found that while the Government of Belize has the right to issue permits to explore for oil and even drill, they must consult with the members of the affected indigenous communities to determine what activities can happen on their lands, as well as the forms of compensation to follow.” (Unquote) The message, according to the mutual parties, is that all Belizeans have the inherent right to be a part of a consultative and participatory process in the management of our resources, especially when political policies have the potential to cause irrevocable damage.

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