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Maya and GOB back in court

Maya Communal Land Rights has been a progressive and pressing issue from as far back as when there was a PUP administration. The buffer communities had sought and set legal precedence in the journey, from protest to lobbying for international support to be able to control substantial land holdings that are suspected to have untold wealth in oil capital beneath the surface. The success of the case is also sparking conversations about land rights for Garifuna communities. However, the case of the Maya Leaders Alliance and twenty-three Mayan villages versus the Attorney General of Belize was back in court this morning. There is an impasse between both parties and the Caribbean Court of Justice ordered both sides to take specific steps towards building trust and moving forward with regards to the work plan. Cristina Coc, Spokesperson for the Maya Leaders Alliance and Toledo Alcade’s Association said she was pleased with how today’s court proceedings went.

Cristina Coc – Spokesperson, Maya Leaders Alliance: I think today went very well; i think that the court has seen very clearly despite the fact that they only see bits and pieces of the real picture of how the government treats the Maya people and how it continues to fail to appreciate the rights of the Maya people in southern Belize. It continues to do everything possible to disregard and disrespect good faith consultations and to delay the process of implementation. We are three years since this decision was given and to date we still have not come to agree to a very simple task that is of a joint work plan. A road map that would set out what it is that the court has ordered the government to do. No time and time again we come to the court, we listen to the way the government has created this excuse after excuse and fail to recognize; we are convinced that this government, this commission is incapable of recognizing and giving regard to do due process and we continue to feel that we will continue to come back to the court time and time again with the same complaints that there is not adequate process for good faith consultations for negotiations. This commission seems to think that they can just dictate, that they can inform, that they can make unilateral decisions all the while failing to recognize that this is the life of our children.

Coc pointed out some of the problems the Maya Leaders Alliance are facing with the Government appointed commission.

Cristina Coc – Spokesperson, Maya Leaders Alliance: The Commission did not meet with us at the Commission’s will. The Commission met with us after so many times of coming back to this very court and asking the court to have the Commission take undertakings to meet with us because they refuse to meet with us. They refuse to have good faith negotiations with us particularly on the work plan and because they were pressed to do that they ended up having a few meetings with us where they presented us a draft framework of a work plan. We continue to give time and time again our inputs. One point in time they gave us a work plan from the Solicitor General and then later on told us that was a wrong version of the work plan. The Commission said that is not the version that they approved and so the Commission said they had a new version but did not provide us with that version at the time that they informed us. The work plan would define the terms of reference, it would define the job of that Bilateral Technical Committee. We suggested that because we felt that if we had technical people on our side and technical people on the side of the government; the process might move a little bit faster to deal with some of the technical issues. Identifying for example what sorts of policies need to be put in place, identifying for example how we do parts of the activities in the work plan whether we need to hire consultants or not. That would be the job of the Bilateral Technical Committee and if you listen to the name Bilateral Technical committee; it refers to two parties; bi refers to two parties. In this instance we thought representatives of the Maya people and representatives of the government, it has turned out that the government now is insisting on a multilateral technical committee.

The CCJ had ordered the judgment three years ago and there has been no progress to resolve the situation.