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May 20, 2014

SATIIM mobilizes for another round of litigation

There was a large gathering of Maya communities in Punta Gorda today. In fact, leaders and representatives from thirty-eight communities were present for the event in which the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management explained the way forward as it relates to the controversial pre-drilling activities by US Capital Energy. Greg Ch’oc, Executive Director of SATIIM, says that the Mayas will continue to struggle against oil exploration in their communal lands. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The convergence of a little under a hundred men and women at Machaca Outreach Camp in Toledo, to discuss with legal advisors the way forward, will be viewed by some as a continuation of the fight against the Government of Belize and U.S. Capital Energy.  To others, charting the way forward, albeit in the spirit of dialogue, is in accordance with the rule of law.  This is the second recorded mass gathering of Maya leaders and other members of the indigenous community since government waived the extension for the oil company to access the Sarstoon Temash National Park on April thirtieth.

 

Greg Ch’oc

Greg Ch’oc, Executive Director, SATIIM

“In light of these experiences, we call upon the international community to demand the Government of Belize to uphold the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of its indigenous people in all of its development agenda. Indigenous people and local communities best practices at the grassroots level prove that rights-based approach to sustainable development and natural resource conservation are the best way forward. We oppose any attempt by the Government of Belize to conduct dealing on our land without the free, prior, informed consent of our community as a whole. We reaffirm our consent to have SATIIM, its lawyers and experts to be our legal representative, technical representatives to take all necessary steps to protect and defend our territories.”

 

The press conference held today by the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management succeeds extensive discussions with claimant villages that make up a portion of the buffer communities.  At present an application for an injunction to bar U.S. Capital from resuming its work within the protected area is before the Supreme Court.

 

Eamon Courtenay

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for SATIIM

“The government has embarked upon a charade of having supposed consultations with other parties who are not parties to the claim.  We call on the government to obey the rule of law and the order of the Supreme Court.  We have filed an application for a post-judgment injunction which is to be heard on June sixteenth.  The purpose of that is because the permit under which U.S. Capital is in the Sarstoon Temash National Park has expired on April thirtieth.  There has, according to the government, been no extension of that permit.  That company is therefore involved in unlawful activities within the Sarstoon Temash National Park and we call on that company to submit itself on the rule of law and not the rule of money and the jungle.”

 

On May first, when a throng of irate Maya leaders and community members descended upon Sunday Wood, a bold declaration was made that the activities of U.S. Capital would, as of that day, be monitored closely.  SATIIM has provided an update.

 

Greg Ch’oc

“We are cognizant of the fact that we could block US Capital and their people from going in. But I think that we want to give the new injunction application that we have applied. I think that we have restrained, we’re being restrained among ourselves decided that we should refrain from engaging physically from confronting US Capital. To give the process a chance, which also demonstrates the goodwill and the willingness of the community to address the illegal activity that is occurring and is supported by the Government of Belize inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park.”

 

Ch’oc also warned government that the indigenous community, once all legal options have been exhausted, will make a final decision what action will be taken to put an end to the exploratory work within the national park.

 

Greg Ch’oc

“To the Government of Belize and especially to the prime minister of this country; that if he believes that the Maya community is going to waiver, is going to be frustrated, he needs to understand the legacy of resistance is in our blood; it has been there for the last five hundred years and as long as we are alive, we will continue with our sustained effort. We are giving the opportunity of due process a chance, but as I said earlier, we believe in the court. And when we reach that point where we believe the court is no longer able to protect our interest or the government refuses to protect our interest, then it is the community that will make a determined decision on what appropriate action they will take.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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