NTUCB Condemns Offensive Remarks Made by Minister Michael Espat Against Commissioner of Indigenous People’s Affairs
Over the weekend, residents of Punta Gorda Town, Toledo were in high spirits as they celebrated PG Day. However, Minister of State, Michael Espat, during his address to the people of the town, had a few choice words to say about the ongoing Maya Land Rights case. Expat’s comments appear to suggest that the 2015 decision by the courts, which in essence support Maya land rights, will cause great problems – and referred to Greg Ch’oc in derogatory language – language which we will not repeat. Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Dolores Balderamos-Garcia has called the comments “unfortunate” and made clear that the Government of Belize does not subscribe to his frame of thought. Love News reached out to him for comments – or a possible retraction – but our messages have so far gone unanswered. As for the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), which represents hundreds of workers that are of Indigenous Descent, these types of comments are not only offensive but also go against what the constitution says about discrimination.
A press release was issued today by GOB to once again rebuke these remarks. The statement says GOB reaffirms its commitment to full compliance with the terms of the Consent Order of the CCJ and to the implementation of a Maya Land Policy, which not only protects the rights of the Maya people recognized by our courts but also addresses the concerns of other Belizeans. The release goes on to say (quote) “The Government of Belize does not agree with the characterizations sought to be attributed to Minister Espat’s comments but understands that they are driven by political and other agendas. Likewise, the Government of Belize publicly condemns the use of any racist language and fearmongering in dealing with the Maya land rights by any person or group and views such activity as detrimental to the ongoing process. The government specifically calls on the various Maya leader organizations to refrain from alarmist pronouncements that could harm this complex process.” (end quote) A draft Maya Land Policy is to be finalised by GOB and will be released shortly. The policy will be brought before the public and will undergo extensive consultation with the Maya people and their representatives.