Maya Leaders Association Clarifies “misleading information” Amidst Bridge Repair Controversy

Maya Leaders Association Clarifies “misleading information” Amidst Bridge Repair Controversy

The Maya Leaders Association (MLA) has reached out to Love News to clarify, what they have coined as misleading information.  According to Cristina Coc, spokesperson of the MLA, explained that she is somewhat disappointed over statements made by Engineering Coordinator at the Ministry of Infrastructure Development & Housing, Evondale Moody. On Sunday, the Ministry responded quickly to repair a wooden bridge that collapsed in the village of San Pedro, Columbia in the Toledo District.  While the ministry did not hesitate to address the broken bridge, they did have some reservations since the bridge was located on communal land.  Moody had explained to Love News that the government ministry is not allowed to carry out works on private lands, and that the communal land areas are tantamount to just that.  Coc is now calling on Moody for an apology.   

Christina Coc, Spokesperson, M.L.A: “The consent process is not in any way there to prevent access to any of the villages in the Toledo district. The government developed a pre prior informed consent protocol and nowhere in that protocol prevents access to any of the Maya villages so let’s just put that out there. Number 2, where any infrastructure development or upgrade or expansion of roads things like that is concerned the constitution itself mandates due process to engage with land owners to prevent harm. This is also a similar process for the Maya Villages. For example in the case of Succotz where the tree was cut without consulting the village all of that harm could have been prevented had they consulted the village, had the engaged with the village. So it’s not to prevent the development or the repair or any kind of infrastructure upgrade. It is really to ensure that you are preventing harm to the people concerned and that may be impacted by whatever it is you’re doing there. The Maya Leaders Alliance has no say in what happens in the lands that are owned by respective villages only the members of the village have a right ot say yay,nay, or provide conditions or whatever the case might be. Free prior informed consent rests with the village, not with the MLA, not with the TAA, not with any outside entity. So if there is anybody that can give permission or that they should engage with it is the members of that village and if they’ve already heard from the members of that village that they want the bridge upgraded clearly then they have gotten consent they should go ahead and do their work. So I just see it as mischief because every time something either you don’t want to do your job or you can’t respond positively to the village and therefor you have to blame the MLA ? No man this has to stop. This really has to stop. That is inaccurate. At no point did they reach out to us. We only learned of this because somebody led me on through the news that was aired and I was actually surprised because at no point did the ministry reach out to the MLA and at no point did the MLA request that they be consulted regarding this upgrade of this bridge. So that is entirely a mistruth, it’s untrue. When we hold positions of authority particularly as the Chief Engineer under the Ministry of Infrastructure you have to be responsible with your words and with your language because people believe you, you’re in a place of authority so you have to be responsible and mature about how you present things and so I know while he might not respond to this I ask Mr.Moody to come in and do a retraction and to offer an apology to the MLA because that is not accurate what he said about the MLA.”

The MLA, along with the Toledo Alcalde Association and the Government of Belize entered a consent order in 2015 to develop a framework that recognizes and protects Maya customary land rights.

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