Indian Creek Community Takes Government to Court Over Alcalde Removal

Indian Creek Community Takes Government to Court Over Alcalde Removal

Members of the Indian Creek community in southern Belize are challenging the government in court following the removal of the village Alcalde and his deputy in January.  The removal was done using a statutory instrument, subsequently replacing them with two replacements.  The speculation by the Alcaldes’ attorney, Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith, is that the replacement had to do with the implementation of the CCJ Consent Order of 2015.  The two removed Alcaldes took the matter to court where they sought leave and an injunction which they were granted yesterday.  According to the Senior Counsel, another request was to deter the newly appointed Alcaldes from having any involvement in the traditional roles as village leaders.

Godfrey Smith, Attorney for Alcaldes: “Essentially, the government is saying, listen you come here to court arguing about Alcaldes having customary practices and rights. No such thing exists in the laws of Belize. You won’t find anything about Alcaldes customary practices in village councils act and the inferior courts act and the state has the sovereign right to legislate and it has and this is the law of the land and our response to that is and will be developed that in the same way that way back when the Maya first advocated for protection of customary land tenure it wasn’t recognized in the laws of Belize so too we’re saying that the right of their villages to exclusively determine who will be their Alcaldes and the right to remove them vests in the village, not by virtue of any written law of the land but by a process of constitutional interpretation, utilizing international treaty obligations and international customary law, as has been done when it came to the court’s recognition of the Maya right to customary land.”

Also speaking on the matter is Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck.  He is the attorney for the government in this case, and he has indicated that past and present administrations have identified the issues between the country and the Alcaldes’ laws.  

Andrew Marshalleck, BEL Chairman: “The problem has always been there below the surface and there’s always been recognition of it and a recognition of a need as well to fix it. We need to find a way that works for everybody as part of our democratic system, giving respect and wishes to everybody’s views. These little issues have been festering for decades because of our history. It’s not a new thing. It’s not something this government has done. It’s a problem they have with the way we have sought to impose our system of government on them. It is slated to be included as part of the laws governing Maya customary land rights. This is scheduled to be dealt with as part and parcel of the Maya land rights legislation. It is part of it. And the policy says that the government will devise the laws so as to harmonize the two systems as far as possible and harmonizing it might well mean putting one in its place so that you understand your hierarchy. But those details haven’t been fleshed out. The case will deal with the law as it exists now.”

Reporter: Before April 2025. 

Andrew Marshalleck, BEL Chairman: Well, we’re hoping for that to be done before April 2025. But as you know, everything gets in the way. We were supposed to appoint a draft person in January and instead we had demonstrations in villages calling for all sorts of things, set it back months so that anything can happen. But the decision is there, the will is there to expedite it, to do it as quickly as we possibly can.”

Love News understands that the injunction will remain in place until the matter is ventilated in court and a ruling is delivered.  No date has been set for that hearing.

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