Indian Creek Villagers want Lisel Alamilla to leave them alone. Alamilla has become a persona non grata for the villagers after she reportedly had boulders dumped at the entrance of two roads to block villagers from accessing the dumpsite and river. Last month the Ministry of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs, issued out a press release informing that former chairperson of the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission, Lisel Alamilla, as agent for a private land owner, placed a full page ad in the newspaper asserting ownership by the company of a large tract of land in or near Indian Creek Village in Toledo District. The Ministry said it was concerned and disappointed that Alamilla, who recently demitted the office of Commissioner at the end of December 2020, and is well aware of the complex issues at hand, has made such a statement knowing the difficulties and potential conflicts it has caused. The police department had to be requested to visit Indian Creek in order to diffuse a potentially explosive situation. However, Alamilla continues to assert ownership and had blocked the roads leading to the land. The Mayan villagers are not having it and on Saturday, villagers put their foot down. Fathers, mothers and leaders removed the boulders and had a special messaged for Alamilla: Leave us Alone!”. Our Toledo Senior Correspondent Paul Mahung was first on the scene.
The women of the village say that they use the waters of Golden Stream to wash their clothes. They have been doing so for decades and are not willing to let a private company disrupt their customary traditions.
“We the Indian Creek ladies, we don’t have a creek, we don’t have no river in our village so we only depend on Golden Stream. This is the road we use every year to go wash in the river but Lisel came and dump some big rocks in our way so how are we going to use the river? How are we going to wash ? How are we going to reach our vehicles to come here and wash in this river and now we don’t have any time to do it because they’ve blocked our way this time ?”
“This is Indian Creek property so that’s why I put this sign here. This is not for flora and fauna this is for Indian Creek property.”
“This is the amount of garbage that some of the people bring and the men finished cleaning the way so we are going into the dump site to dump our garbage and this is not the last. Today is the last for Lisel to stop blocking our way so we want the garbage to be dumped in this area that is due to our health in the village.”
Commenting on the situation was Toledo West Area Representative Oscar Requena. He is the Minister of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Labour and Local Government and points the Consent Ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice in 2015, which called on all parties to respectfully balance competing interests of Maya customary land rights and private ownership by third parties and interests.
Hon. Oscar Requena, Minister of Rural Transformation, Community Development, Local Government and Labor: “This matter is an ongoing discussion because as you know the court ruling has been made and you know we have two sides of the coin. We have people who are saying they want their land, they want their documents and so on and then we also have communities who are saying they want the communal land and then we have the court ruling so all of this, all of those issues and considerations have to be taken into account in the context of the court ruling and what has to be done is that you know we have to work with our communities, our leaders. Clearly there are several organizations that are leading the way. You know we have to work with them as a government but we also have to take into account the issues and the concerns that our people have and you know one of the reassuring things that came out of a discussion that I recently had with the Maya Leaders Alliance in Indian Creek was that people who have their existing leases or they have their titles or they have their titles in process you know that these persons are going to be respected and basically what the leaders said is that people must continue to work their land, clear their boundaries and continue to work and I think that is important.”
The newly appointed Commissioner for Indigenous Affairs Greg Choc who told our Toledo Correspondent Paul Mahung that he has met with both parties to amicably solve the dispute.
Greg Choc, Commissioner of Indigenous People’s Affairs: “Upon taking office I convened a meeting with the representative of the private land owner, I also convened a meeting with the leaders of Indian Creek. My intention was to bring the parties together to hopefully reach an agreement, an interim agreement, on how it is they can coexist until a mechanism is agreed to on how the third party’s inters will be addressed. I felt that there was a reasonable opening for both parties to reach an agreement however the actions of both parties in relation to the community installing the post and putting a chain across the entrance of a road going into that private land and the representative putting huge boulders on the entrance has not been helping or has not been helpful to the process and that has led to a break down in the discussion that I felt would have resulted in some interim remedy for both parties to coexist as they’ve always done in the past but I will make additional attempt to see whether or not they can come back to the table and keep on until we can find some solution and the immediate interim to address these problems.”