Today, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), by way of teleconference, heard an update as to how the Government of Belize was progressing on a judgment the CCJ handed down two years ago, ordering the Government of Belize to “create an effective mechanism” to identify and protect Maya lands in accordance with Maya traditional governance. Lisel Alamilla, Chairperson of the Mayan Land Rights Commission, spoke to the media after today’s hearing and was asked to respond to whether or not the Commission was moving slowly in executing the consent order.
Lisel Alamilla, Chairperson of the Mayan Land Rights Commission
“It is very slow but I think it’s the nature of this kind of work. The commission doesn’t make all the final decisions, it depends on other decision makers to make some final decisions that are beyond our remit and based on conversations I’ve had with other people who have been involved in similar work this is a very slow and frustrating process for the parties. The first activity we did in developing the work plan was to engage the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcalde Association. We basically asked them to tell us what it is that they wished to be included in the work plan. They gave us their dream list if you want to call it that and then they are not the only persons who are going to be affected by this order so there are other groups the government, through the commission, has to consult. Its slow yes I wish that it had been finished by now but it’s not and like I said earlier everything is a slow process. This exercise is very expensive and I don’t think it’s fair to expect that the government of Belize is going to have the millions of dollars necessary to carry out this exercise in a meaningful manner so it’s also affected by what we have available. I don’t think that three years is a long time you know it’s just three years since the consent order came to being. As I keep repeating the nature of this work doesn’t happen overnight, some countries are still at it a hundred years later and they haven’t resolved their issues with their indigenous peoples and their lands and rights.”
Pablo Mis, Program Coordinator of the Maya Leaders Alliance, also spoke to the media after today’s proceedings and he was asked to respond to whether he was satisfied with the mediations of the CCJ.
Pablo Mis, Program Coordinator of the Maya Leaders Alliance
“Well I think today is a very regrettable day for Belize and we should keep in mind that the world is watching. Remember that this case came about because the Maya people felt that they were being discriminated against just to be reminded boldly in front of the learned justices that this was the beginning of the healing of a historic injustice just to be reminded that no the Maya people should not be a part of the helm of charting the way forward and implementing is very regrettable. That if we are to take the progress of this process, if we are to take the commission as an indicator that today we’ve learned that no there is nothing much that the Maya people should have expected or can be expected in the near future. We are very concerned about the orders that we had to negotiate our way with today. We recognize that these are issues that ultimately the government will have to take leadership in and we are hoping that the government will allow for a space for the Maya people to be a part of understanding how exactly we should be dealing with these injustices and out of the five issues that we had to address today we had to negotiate four of them. We will tell you clearly that we are not truly satisfied. We’ve done much of what the court reiterated that needs to be done in the past, we’ve elaborated on a work plan, we’ve developed an advisory and consultation framework, we’ve proposed a joint technical team to look at legislation, we’ve proposed independent facilitators, we recognize that this is a very sensitive matter to deal with but we also recognize that there is a lot of willing hands ready to help us to navigate our way through. We don’t accept any at all the justification to say that other countries have taken hundreds of years to resolve the matter; Belize needs to take up its own responsibility, it needs to take bold steps towards addressing the issues of the Maya people.”
Today’s case was adjourned to February 19, 2018.