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Maya leaders hold meeting to state their position

An assembly meeting of Toledo Alcaldes Association was held this morning in Golden Stream Village, Toledo.

Paul Mahung reporting…

“The Maya leader’s alliance MLA program coordinator Pablo Mis.”

Pablo Mis, MLA Program Coordinator

“The purpose of the meeting is to update the Alcaldes on the recent incident in Santa Cruz and also the reaction of government after the incident and also to inform the Alcaldes on the nature of the application that’s now been made before the Caribbean Court of Justice to ensure that these kinds of incidents that happened in Santa Cruz does not happen again. I want to say that on the ground there are many other situations where communities rights are being violated that can create these kinds of flare-ups to happen again, these are incidents that we would not like to see happen and we want to make sure that the court becomes more clear in ensuring that the government begins to fulfill its promise under the order and under the commitment that it made in April.”

Paul Mahung, Love News

Another main speaker was legal counsel for MLA and Maya Leaders in Southern Belize Monica Coc.

Attorney Monica Coc

Well we are going to file an application before the Caribbean Court of Justice today because of the government’s failure to honor its undertaking under the April 22, 2015 consent order. Basically what the application is asking the court to do is make certain clarifications and declarations with respect to this consent order and in summary we are asking the court to declare that the collective property rights arising from the Maya customer land tenure includes the rights of Maya villages to determine pursuant to customary law who may enter, use and reside in their customary lands. We are also asking the government to declare that the government of Belize has violated, breached paragraphs 2 and 4 of the consent order and those paragraphs. Paragraph two speaks to the fact that the government under the consent order must adapt affirmative measures to identify and protect the rights of the appellants arising from Maya customary land tenure in conformity with the constitutional protections of property and nondiscrimination sections in 3D, 16 and 17 of the Belize constitution.  Basically what paragraph four then talks about is that until they do that, they have to cease and abstain from any act either by the government themselves or third parties that might adversely affect the use of enjoyment of the lands that area used and occupied by the Maya villages.  This includes such things as they have to stop issuing leases, they have to stop renewing any authorization for resource exploitation including concessions, permits, contracts those types of things and we are also asking the court to order the government of Belize to pay pecuniary and moral damages to the Maya villages of Santa Cruz, San Isidro, Golden Stream for the government’s failure to honor it’s solemn undertaking under the CCJ consent order and under the commitment that they gave the Maya people. So again this application became necessary because the government has failed to protect the communal land of Santa Cruz from an intruder and continues to issue logging licenses in the villages of Golden Stream as recently as May 2015, less than a month after the April consent order and continues to allow the surveying of lands for leases in the Maya communities. So that is the reason we are filing this application.”

Paul Mahung, Love News

MLA spokesperson Christina Coc also spoke.

Christina Coc – Spokesperson, MLA

“While I cannot speak directly to the incident in Santa Cruz as our legal team has already explained to you it is a matter before the courts I will ask some very general questions to all of us here. Can we just go to anybody that has a private property can you just go and build and attached a house there and build a house on that person’s property without any sanctions, any kind of removal, without any kind of questions? Can you do that? Then the answer is very clear because Maya people have private property rights to the land. The only difference is that we hold it in common together. You just have to look around in Southern Belize there are 39 Maya communities.

Paul Mahung, Love News

The event which included discussion session had the participation of 72 Alcaldes and Deputies as well as supporters from Santa Cruz village and others from several Mayan communities in Southern Belize.”