Orange Walk Central representative weighs in on Santa Cruz issue

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Updated: June 25, 2015

One man who had a close up view of the happenings in Santa Cruz on Saturday was Orange Walk Central area representative, John Briceno. According to Briceno, he was on a family trip in the Toledo district heading to the border with Guatemala when their attention was caught by a crowd of people on the side of the road.

John Briceno – Orange Walk Central Area Representative

“What caught our attention, that we saw a man of Creole descent, a  black Belizean with handcuffs. We decided that we were going to stop to find out what was going on and it was only then that we found out that the Maya community had a problem with Mr. Myles, I think is his name, with a structure that he built on top of a hill. My concern there that I can understand if a person is being disorderly that you can do a citizen’s arrest or in the Mayan communities I think they do have permission to arrest, but in a case like this where you need to move a structure, I believe that they should have gone to the police, take out a summons and let the court make that decision as opposed to handcuff a Belizean and tying him up.  We in the PUP have always felt that it is one country, it is one people and we should have the right to live wherever we desire, wherever we wish. My wife was along with us on that trip and she was very emotional when she saw how Mr. Myles was being treated and she could not believe that we are treating our citizens like this in this country. So it was an emotional response but that still does not give the right to the police to behave the way that they did. The police has a responsibility to the citizens of this country. My issue with this one is that I believe that they overreached, they overreacted; that there was no need to use that excessive force, that the very job that they wanted to achieve, the very command that was given to them by their bosses in the police department could have been achieved without having to use the GSU.”

 Briceno explained that he spoke at length with Rupert Myles and the Maya leaders including Cristina Coc in an effort to learn about what was happening.  He says that while he understands the position of the Maya he is gravely concerned about their reaction.  As former minister of Natural Resources, Briceno explained that while in office he signed a ten point agreement with the Maya leaders for ways to recognize and respect indigenous traditional and cultural land, however, admits more needs to be done by successive administrations.

John Briceno – Orange Walk Central Area Representative

“I do support the issue of communal land but what we need to do now and the government has undertaken the responsibility along with the Maya Leaders Alliance in trying to define all of this, this has not been defined as yet and this is where I think the bulk of the work is left to be done in trying to define the different roles and first of all to define the area which is the area that is going to be managed as communal land, as a land for the indigenous people and then once that is defined, for us to define the rules. How is it that they are going to be managing this land and I could see that the indigenous people have a special love or affinity to the land and to the forest, they are going in to the forest to get food, to get their building materials so we need to find a way where they can do that easily without the intervention of Belmopan or the intervention of the Ministry of Natural Resources or the Forestry Department but that it can be done in a sustainable manner. We believe that once we can define the area, at least in my mind, I haven’t seen where it has been properly defined, that then we can set the rules as to how this land is going to be managed communally among the different communities that want to have their land to be held under this system that they have been advocating for.” 

 

Briceno opines that some Belizeans may be reacting based on emotions, including the Prime Minister, and warns that as a small country with an ethnical diverse population Belizeans should be cautious as to the direction we are taking to deal with the matter.

 

John Briceno – Orange Walk Central Area Representative

“I think that as citizens of this country we should all react when you see the images of Mr. Myles in handcuffs and the rope that they had him tied up. I think that we should react because I don’t think that is a Belize that we want to see. We don’t want to go down that road. I think we have done a fairly good job in trying to keep racism out as much as possible. It does exist, let’s not fool ourselves but it has never been a problem like for instance, like in countries say like Guyana so I think that all right thinking Belizeans should react when we saw the pictures of Mr. Myles, how he was mistreated on Saturday but at the same time when we saw the images on TV yesterday, we should also react and say but Hell no, we are not going to allow anybody to be treated that way. It was wrong with Mr. Myles; it was wrong the way that Cristina was treated and the Maya leaders that were arrested. It was wrong the way that they were treated and we do recognize that there are certain customary rights that the Mayas have and we should respect it and I am one of them that respect that and now that the Caribbean Court of Justice, whilst they did not give a ruling, they gave pretty much an instruction and the government has given indication to sit down with the Maya Leaders Alliance to work out the issue of communal land and to work out the rules and regulations of how this land is going to be managed. We as far as I know in the PUP, we do support that.”

 

Arturo Cantun – Love News

“Do you feel in some way, that your intervention on Sunday, helped in not turning this incident more volatile? I mean knowing your reputation in the country and the respect the people have for you?

 

John Briceno – Orange Walk Central Area Representative

“Well for a short while it was a bit dicey, it was getting a little bit, you know, very tense because I was on one side of the street at the start, talking to Cristina and Pedro and they were explaining to me what was happening and when I looked  up, Will was on the other side walking up the hill interviewing people and I saw some of the people out there trying to aggress Will and even wanting to take away his camera or his phone, he was videoing with his phone and so I quickly walked up there and then things then calmed down a bit and also Cristina and Pablo were also telling everybody let’s calm down.”