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Jun 30, 2008

Maya leaders go to court to assert customary land rights

Story PictureWilfred Elrington, Attorney General
“We are not going to apply that ruling in a broad way over all the other Indian villages in Toledo because there’s a criterion for them to be able to have the status which they are claiming and that has got to be established before the court.”

Those were the words of Attorney General Wilfred Elrington on June thirteenth and today Human Rights Attorney Antoinette Moore was at the Supreme Court to do just what the A.G. suggested. This morning, Moore filed a constitutional claim on behalf of all thirty-eight Maya villages, including Golden Stream, through the Toledo Alcalde Association and the Maya Leaders Alliance.

The group is asking the court for a declaration that the Maya’s customary land tenure exists, therefore reaffirming the October 2007 judgment for Santa Cruz and Conejo; a declaration that government’s failure to adopt affirmative measures to identify and protect the rights of the Maya is a violation of their constitutional rights; that the court orders government to develop and identify measures to protect the Mayas; and until those mechanism exists, that G.O.B. be ordered not to take any action on Maya land without their consent. And finally, the Mayas are also asking for an assessment of damages for the constitutional violations they have suffered.

Two weeks ago, Moore filed for and secured a temporary injunction against the Ministry of Natural Resources and Toledo Rice farmer Francis Johnston on behalf of the Maya of Golden Stream Village. The villagers are seeking constitutional redress for alleged violations to their rights to property, equality and life caused by the destruction of the cocoa and corn by Johnston between April and June. The Mayans assert that the fifty acres in question is village property under customary land tenure.

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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