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Oct 23, 2017

Maya Lash G.O.B. in C.C.J.: ‘Absolutely Nothing’ for Communal Land Rights

April twenty-second, 2015, was a historic day for the Maya peoples of the South. In the Supreme Court of Belize, the Caribbean Court of Justice presided over a consent order agreed between the Government of Belize and the Maya Leaders Alliance and Toledo Alcaldes Association, respectively. Among other things, the government agreed to develop a mechanism to recognize the land rights of the indigenous Maya people. The Toledo Maya Lands Rights Commission was established within a few months, headed by a former senator and government minister and featuring a prominent Queen’s Counsel. But according to the Maya there has been no progress in implementing the order, and a status hearing was called today to provide an update to the Court. The C.C.J. is poised to make further orders, but will the Government take heed? News Five’s Aaron Humes reports from Treasury Lane.


Pablo Mis

Pablo Mis, Program Coordinator, MLA/TAA

“If we are to take the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission as an indicator of the progress being made, then today we learned that absolutely nothing has been done. I think the Government of Belize has failed miserably to implement the orders of the Court.”


Aaron Humes, Reporting

Strong words after almost three years at this forum and close to three decades fighting the issue of communal land rights. And Commission Chairlady Lisel Alamilla and Solicitor General Nigel Hawke did not stick around to defend themselves or the Government. They were off to plot strategy after receiving the preliminary order of the C.C.J. panel this afternoon, having asked for time until Monday, October thirtieth to consult. Attorney for the Maya associations Monica Coc-Magnusson tells us more.


Monica Coc-Magnusson

Monica Coc-Magnusson, Attorney for MLA/TAA

“We are here to discuss the implementation of the C.C.J. 2015 order and we are trying to move this process forward. It has been almost three years and not much has been done on the ground, but that’s why we are here; we are back before the Court because they have a supervisory role in this respect and so that’s why we’re here. We are back to report on the status of the implementation.  We are hopeful that we would reach some kind of consent in respect of a timeline to the implementation.”


But the Maya have seen this script before. Mis says the government continues to leave the Maya leaders out of its consultations and discussions, and has allowed further violations of their territory to take place, the Rupert Myles case in Santa Cruz village in 2015 being one example. He issued a warning that the Maya’s long-suffering relationship with Belmopan could soon be running out.


Pablo Mis

“The point is that there is nothing concrete that we can come back to this court to report that has been done to move the implementation forward. We, at the Maya Leaders Alliance and Alcaldes Association, have attempted to do whatever there is in our power to always come prepared to engage in the process. We recognize that this kind of implementation on the part of the Government requires directional leadership; it requires rational thinking; it requires an ability to recognize that we are correcting an historic injustice here, that we can’t continue to replicate those in our processes.  This is precisely the frustration of the Maya people that was put on the table before the Justices today, that there are issues that are happening; that there are violations and infringements. And it is in our opinion – the opinion of the Maya people – that we cannot continue to entertain those kinds of violations and infringements on a court of the highest order that Belize belongs to. So they are infringing – what’s happening, the two cases that you mention are still before the court, they have not concluded as yet. We hope that those are cases that the Government would engage with the Maya people in finding an amicable solution to. The Maya people are clear in saying that this cannot be our lives; it can’t be traveling to Belize City, to the court every time. We are Belizeans and we are guaranteed constitutional protection; and that is what we have been fighting for and that is what we continue to stand and defend.”


Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.


The conclusion to the case has been set for Monday afternoon, October thirtieth, at one p.m. The associations are also being represented by Senior Counsel Magali Marin-Young.

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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