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Jul 26, 2013

What are the implications of the Maya Land Rights ruling?

On Thursday, the Court of Appeal issued a split decision ruling in the case of Mayan land rights in Southern Belize. On one hand, the Court re-affirmed the rights of the Mayas to their ancestral lands in thirty-eight communities in southern Belize. On the other hand, the Court held that government has no obligation to protect those rights. It is a ruling which favors no side over the other, and it’s important because it means that government is not held back from allowing third parties access to those lands. Two days before that decision, Sarstoon Temash Institute of Indigenous Management and interested parties filed an injunction against G.O.B. and U.S. Capital Energy by to stop oil drilling and related activities in the Sarstoon Temash National Park. Attorney Eamon Courtenay is representing SATIIM in that case and today, we asked him about the implications of the ruling on Thursday.


Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for SATIIM

Eamon Courtenay

“It does affect it, but it is certainly not fatal. My clients propose to continue the claim and the primary point for consideration in the court in that claim is whether or not there can be drilling in the national park. And we believe that the law is very clear that that is not allowed and it has nothing to do as to whether or not you are an indigenous person. That was an additional limb on which we were going to argue and in fact, we are probably still going to argue it. Certainly it has affected the case, but it is not fatal at all. We have very strong arguments to deploy. The National Parks Systems Act provides for nature reserves, national parks, etc.  And when you look at that legislation, it does not contemplate commercial activity in a national park. And what we have here is a decision by the government to allow U.S. Capital to go into the national park to do commercial drilling. And it is going to be our argument very forcefully that the law does not allow for that. In addition to that, we will argue that under the petroleum act—and it is very similar as to what was said in OCEANA—that you cannot give permission for somebody to either explore or to actually drill for oil, when you have a law that prohibits it. So for example, there is no point giving somebody a concession over the barrier reef because you can never allow them to drill in the barrier reef. And our argument is that the National Park System Act does not allow for commercial drilling. And if it does not, the Minister of Energy cannot give a PSA to allow somebody to in effect contravene another law.”


In a related case, this Monday, an application for contempt filed by the Maya Leaders Alliance against the government will be heard. The MLA says that the government is not respecting a court judgment relating to the Mayan rights to communal lands.

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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6 Responses for “What are the implications of the Maya Land Rights ruling?”

  1. Belizean says:

    I am not a Mayan: WHERE ARE MY LAND RIGHTS?

  2. Concerned Citizen says:

    Where were the Maya Leaders when the villages of Toledo were flooding??? They were seen no where!! The are only seen, when moneys are involved!! This is just like politics, dirty. See the amount of money scammed from Satim, this indicates this is a money making enterprise that is exploited only by a few. This same moneys that were stolen could have been very well used to alleviate poverty in the southern villages.

  3. get up stand up for your right says:

    “It is a ruling which favors no side over the other, and it’s IMPOTENT because it means that government is not held back from assisting in crooked deals they have cut with criminals outside Belize…”

    pass the fig leaf, I am embarrassed for the court.
    look away as the country’s assets are plundered.

    In the next round of constitutional amendments, most courts will be eliminated as a nuisance and this cost saving measure will hire more UDP attorneys to pick up their slack.

    enjoy the poverty, it makes us strong.

  4. Bzean says:

    The Mayas have been discriminating against people of color for years. We the dark skinned people of Punta Gorda Town cannot go and live in anyone of their villages. But they are allowed to live anywhere in this country that they choose!!!

    On several occations in the pass they have burnt the black person’shouse in order to chase them out of the area!!!!

    The constitution of Belize says that we are all Belizean — and we all have equal rights!!! They have violated our constitutional rights by not allowing us to live in their villages!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Bzean says:

    The Mayas havebeen discriminating agains people of dark skin for years. The are allowed to come and live within Punta Gorda Town but we are not allowed to live in any of their villages.

    In the past they have burnt the home of black people to chase them out of their villages. We have kept quiet because it will do our country no good to bring up cases of racial discrimination but they are trying to divide this country and it is time for that to stop!!!!!!

    We are all Belizean — we all have the right to live in any part of the country that we choose!!!

  6. Belizean says:


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