Government Working to Resolve Land Disputes in Southern Belize
The Minister of Human Development and Indigenous People’s Affairs, Dolores Balderamos Garcia, says the government continues to work with communities in the south to resolve various land disputes. Last month, the villagers of Laguna and Yemeri Grove had a dispute over the land boundaries of both communities. The issue was sparked by survey markers being placed to mark the village boundaries. Minister Balderamos Garcia explained that the issue remains one that the government is committed to resolving.
Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs: “I’m not aware of a specific proposal but please I have to say that the ministry is absolutely involved and also the government on a whole including the Lands Department because I notice that acting Prime Minister Cordel made some comments on yesterday which are very welcomed. So I want you to know that our door is open and we are carrying out efforts to see if the government can play a mediation role. We need to play a mediation role. Cordel called – and we call him by his first name you know – Cordel called for talking with one another as opposed to at one another we are making that effort and we are also making the effort to get out the education campaign. And we are starting the education campaign with some radio ads and then we will move from there. Just yesterday CEO Leal along with commissioner Greg Chuc had a meeting with some of our media advisors and the people like Mr. Habet and them who will assist us with rolling out the education campaign but please I want it to be known that the doors are open, that we will continue the consultation on the Maya customary land tenure policy and that we will never close the door. There might have been a little bit of upset but we will never close the door to certain protagonists and certain advocates but we believe that we have to deal with all the various Maya villages and again it’s a matter of representation and we may have a difference of opinion but we believe as government that we have to reach out to everybody and not only the Toledo Alcaldes Association and their partners and advocates.”
The residents of Laguna Village claim that the government’s request to have their markers removed violates their customary practices. However, Minister Balderamos Garcia doesn’t agree and says that it’s a sensitive situation.
Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs: “Customary practice we need to respect. For example we were in Hopkins last year weekend and apparently a ceremony had been planned and the Yurumei but apparently there was a recent death in the village and so they had to postpone it so that is customary practice which we respect. Now the customary practice of the Maya people it sort of bumps up against other realities on the ground. One of them is the government’s view in terms of a verification process of what we call the auto delimitation and it’s going to be so necessary for us to sit down and see where when one bumps up against the other one where we can resolve it. We don’t have a problem in the center of your village dealing with the land in the customary way but in the issue of Laguna and Yemeri Grove we have a disputed boundary or maybe you could say that the boundary of the Maya customary land has not actually been set yet and so the government has to assert its authority over all land and Belize. We try to do it in a respectful way because we don’t want further attention. We did not believe that it was a good thing for Mr. Herald Usher to go out there and pull up anything and like I said at the previous press conference we’re not going to penalize anyone but where one practice bumps up against another reality of the government having to take responsibility for all land in Belize and also you’re having a boundary issue for example between Midway and Barranco that is when we may step on somebody’s toe a little bit but the government needs to assert its authority and I go back to what Cordel said yesterday that it is so necessary for us to sit down and talk and for the government to play a mediation role.”