Former Prime Minister speaks on Maya Communal Land Rights issue
Tensions between residents of Yemeri Grove and Laguna have subsided, for now, since the government attempted to strike an interim agreement with the two groups. But will the government be able to find a permanent solution that will satisfy both communities? Well, we’ll have to wait and see, but the former Prime Minister, Dean Barrow, says it’s like fitting a square in a circle. According to Barrow, the current issues were foreseen by his government and will be difficult to resolve.
Dean Barrow, Former Prime Minister of Belize: “The Mayans have a right to communal lands, to traditional Mayan communal lands. That right cannot trump the constitution of the country and the CCJ did make that clear so as happened in a case recently where there was an effort by Mayan claimants to ask the court to find in favor of their ownership pretensions to property to which a nonMayan entity or individual in fact already had legal title the court had to turn away the Mayan claimants, had to say no no. And so that’s where the constitution as the supreme law comes in and that’s where I think the difficulties of trying to find a way of respecting the consent order and what is now a legally declared right of the Mayan people to customary Mayan lands. How one goes about squaring that with the fact of preexisting individual legal titles that non Mayans have to some of the lands that the Mayans want to claim is always going to be one huge headache. A kind of almost insoluble conundrum and so the fact that the current administration which was also very big and triumphantly parading their pro Maya homeland credentials is now as it were being skewered by the very sword that they were waving is not at all surprising and I could have told them except I believed I didn’t need to, they knew.”
Last week, several Creole Villages gathered in Belize City to discuss what they say is an encroachment on their village boundaries. The leaders stated that the 2015 CCJ ruling of the Maya Land Rights Judgement has muddied the water when it comes to village boundaries. The Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA), the Toledo Alcalde Association (TAA), and the Government of Belize entered a Consent Order on April 22, 2015, after the ruling. Under the order, GOB was required to develop a framework that recognizes and protects Maya customary land rights; however, that is yet to be done.