For some time now, US Capital Energy has been looking to conduct oil exploration on lands occupied by the Toledo Mayas. As far back as 2001, US Capital Energy was given a contract to conduct oil exploration. In 2015, the Mayas took the Government of Belize to court for granting concessions without their prior and informed consent. The Mayas won the case at the Caribbean Court of Justice. The CCJ made a consent order whereby the Government should consult with the Maya leadership on existing permits and concessions. It was recently revealed that the US Capital Energy is still seeking to conduct oil exploration on the Toledo Maya’s land. Cristina Coc, the Spokesperson for the Maya Leaders Alliance and Toledo Alcade’s Association briefed the media about this growing concern over the issuance of concessions.
Cristina Coc – Spokesperson, Maya Leaders Alliance: For anyone and I am not a trained Attorney and you don’t have to be for the layman, you can know; if you have studied free prior and informed consent is you will know that you cannot acquire free prior and informed consent in one meeting. As the Solicitor General is projecting to do. First of all informed consent means that they should have had prior information including a copy of the production sharing agreement that they are about to review and I understand that none of the villages have gotten that. I understand as well that none of the documentation which they haven’t gotten has also been provided in their language because this is free prior and informed consent that it must be provided if not in the language of the indigenous people that they are talking to at least in simple language that people can understand and appreciate because you’re talking about a production sharing agreement that is sixty or seventy pages long. Despite all of that the Solicitor General seems to think that he can get informed consent without giving information prior to seeking the consent of the community and in one meeting. We recognize that there are communities that have said “ Well we were of the understanding; we gave consent to reviewing the production sharing agreement which hasn’t been delivered to them and so this is very important to understand that free prior and informed consent is an instrument that was created on the basis of indigenous peoples rights. That where rights exist these communities must be given prior information, must no be coerced, must not be intimidated, must not be brought to make these kinds of decision without the proper information, without the proper technical and legal institutions to support how they make these decisions and certainly without their representative leaders present at these consultations.