GOB says it will have to limit claims of Maya Customary Land in Toledo District

GOB says it will have to limit claims of Maya Customary Land in Toledo District

The Government of Belize says it will have to limit the number of lands being claimed as Maya Customary Land. That’s because Maya Leaders of the South are claiming almost the entire Toledo District. The appellants in the Maya Land Rights Case had submitted a map to the Caribbean Court of Justice claiming millions of acres in Toledo. The Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, says she has seen the map and believes it is unacceptable. The minister noted that the government will have to meet with communities in the south to discuss the issue and ways of resolving it.

Dolores Balderamos – Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs: “There’s a fear and apprehension on the part of the non Maya villages that all the land in the Toledo district is being taken up because of the claim of the Maya leaders, some of them I should say let me qualify some of the Maya leaders, there is the impression that almost all of the Toledo district is being claimed. Now what I had to mention to Mr.Edwards, Mr.Jacobs, Ms.Rodriguez and Ms.Mariano, I had to mention to them that the government is not in favor of necessarily like we are just favoring and leaving everybody else out, government is not unduly favoring any one group over the other. What government is trying to do is to balance competing interests because of the eight year old ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice. We are trying our level best. We’re giving it a good college try if I could call it that to balance competing interests because of the ruling of the court. Now we have made it abundantly clear that there is no way that certain proponents can claim almost the entire Toledo district so that is absolutely not going to happen. What Senior Counsel Marshalleck did and the government did on the last occasion before the Caribbean Court of Justice because they have supervisory jurisdiction. What the Senior Council did was put forward an indicative map that was proposed by the proponents of the case, that map it has not been accepted by the government I have to make that very clear but when you looked at that map and you saw that in concentric circles going out from each village it goes out like you throw a stone in a pond and then you have the concentric circles going out and out – if what is claimed would be accepted then really it would be almost all of the Toledo district.”

Balderamos noted that while the government hasn’t implemented the consent Agreement of 2015, it has passed the FPIC protocol and continues to dialogue with Maya Leaders in the south.

Dolores Balderamos – Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs: “The stage that we are at now will call for very serious decisions. In about a week or two time we’re going to be having a special Cabinet meeting to discuss what we call the Maya Customary Land Tenure Policy because government needs to be briefed and to at least accept what the policy will be so that is in the making but also we are doing outreach with all the communities of the south and I believe it is complete now. The outreach on the policy it self so that we have discussed it with all the various villages. Now let me mention one aspect of the policy that has been discussed and that people understand. Maya Customary Land Tenure is collective, it is customary, it is not private ownership and so if a village decides – and remember it’s each village that needs to decide. If a village decides that they will use what you call the Maya Customary Land Tenure then that land tenure is collective. It’s not individual ownership and it is inalienable in other words they can’t sell their land. But remember though that the Maya Customary Land Tenure is collective. A Maya person can’t come and say well I own this land and so it was concerning and it came up in the meeting yesterday that the Vice Alcalde of Laguna was claiming that she owned a huge parcel of land but she didn’t say this land belongs to Laguna she said this land belongs to “me” and that was concerning because on behalf of the government I must mention that Maya Customary Land Tenure is not exactly like private ownership. It is a different species as the Court of Appeal has recently said. It’s like a different animal. It’s a different thing and the extent of those Maya Customary Land Tenure rights has not been yet fully decided.”

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