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Santa Cruz incident revisited

On Wednesday, 11 Mayans of Santa Cruz Village were arrested and charged for false imprisonment of Rupert Miles. Miles was arrested by the community members on Saturday. They say that he has been unruly and would not relocate from living on an ancient Maya Site. Miles filed a police report and so the Maya group were arrested. After he walked out of the Sitting of the House of Representative, the PUP Standard Bear of Toledo West, Oscar Requena, told the media that the community members believe that Prime Minister Dean Barrow ordered the police to have them arrested.

Oscar Requena – Toledo West area representative

“I believe that this entire situation could have been averted if the authorities had responded timely and appropriately to the request of the community. I want to start off by saying though that Mr. Rupert Myles began his communication and entering into the community sometime in October of 2014. Mr. Myles did not follow the proper procedure and of course I am saying this because I met yesterday for long hours with the entire community of Santa Cruz and during my discussions and my investigation with the community it was made absolutely clear that he just went into the community, illegally settled down on a Maya site, never got permission from the Alcalde, never got permission from the community and to make matters worse the Alcalde repeatedly invited him to come to community meetings to be able to explain his request and put his case forward to the community. He repeatedly refused to come to the community center in fact sad to say the community made it absolutely clear that he threatened them in fact he said “You know I have a gun, I have bullets for anybody who wants to come I am ready to deal with them because I am a Belizean, I can live anywhere and I don’t need any Alcalde to do this.” Let me say that our Mayan communities the Alcalde which is of course enshrined in our constitution as a form of local government, the Alcalde has full command and authority of the community when it comes to law and order in the community so the Alcalde had every right to be able to summon Mr. Myles but he refused to comply. During this process from October up to January and then up to June of this year several letters were written by the community of Santa Cruz addressed to NICH because it involved a Mayan Site, addressed to the police because it was a matter of law and order in the community, addressed to the BDF and to other authorities and I want to make it absolutely clear that during my meeting that yesterday it was confirmed by the villagers that there was absolutely no response from the police, from any authority. This matter could have been totally averted. I want to say that the people are absolutely clear and they are saying that they have no doubt that the response of the police the abuse and violence thrown upon them was as a direct result of the statements made by the Prime Minister in Dangriga on Monday. That’s what the people are telling me.”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow

“What the villagers did was absolutely wrong and I’ve tried to set it out in the statement I gave today from a legal and constitutional point of view. I don’t care whether in fact and there are doubts about the story where Mr. Myles’ place is some sort of a sacred site because as I understand it is a house he had that was there before and when the Mayan from whom he got it was living in it there was not a problem but granted that the Mayans of the village were correct in wanting Mr. Myles to be removed, you cannot go about it in that way. As I pointed out under our law somebody you say is wrongfully in occupation of your land, you get a court order for an eviction and that is when the agents of the state can go in to help you to enforce that court order. When the Mayans say they had been writing police, the police cannot respond to them because that is not the job of the police. It is a dispute between them and their claim as to ownership and as to cultural patrimony and another private citizen. They first needed to get a court order and that is where the rub is. Cristina Coc seems to think that our acceptance of the entitlement of the Mayas in Toledo, in southern Belize to some kind of land rights in tantamount to some session of sovereignty, some concession that they have rights that supersede the laws of this country that is absolutely not the case and she and the MLA must get that straight if we are to be able to proceed. That having been said I made the point, we have conceded that  they have rights and those rights must be vindicated and must be spelt out, must be defined with some precision but until that is done if ever they do what they did again, the same thing will happen. I trust they won’t because they must realize now they were wrong under the laws of this country. Forget the question of race and ethnicity; they were wrong, plain and simple. They have no authority under any kind of cultural remit as I said, any kind of Alcalde system to do what they did. That was wrong and in the course of their wrongdoing, they violated the personal rights of Mr. Myles.”

The Maya Communities of Santa Cruz have asked to meet with Prime Minister Dean Barrow.