General — 01 August 2018 — by Rowland A. Parks
CCJ holds compliance report hearing regarding Mayan land rights

BELIZE CITY, Mon. July 30, 2018– The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) held a hearing this morning via teleconference between its Port of Spain, Trinidad, headquarters and the Belize Supreme Court, where representatives of the Mayan Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcalde Association squared off with Government of Belize representatives regarding a compliance report.

In April 2015, the CCJ gave a consent order to demarcate and register the boundaries of indigenous lands in the southern Maya villages.

Coming out of today’s hearing were five actions that must be taken and a dispute mechanism which must be signed within two weeks. The authority that will deal with disputes should be appointed by October 1, 2018.

The appellants will submit the name of a representative to a bilateral technical committee within four weeks, subsequent to which the terms of reference of the committee will be defined.

The commission that had previously been established by the government to implement the orders of the CCJ is now expected to put into place the work plan to effect the consent order. That plan would define the terms of reference of the committee.

Lastly, the commission would support a request for a subvention from the government for the Mayas to cover their expenses in the process.

The Maya claim that the commission did not even want to consider bus reimbursements for their representatives to travel to attend the meetings. The response from the Attorney General’s Ministry today was that the commission itself is pressed for cash and cannot pay for the expenses of the Maya people.

After the hearing, Christina Coc, the spokesperson for the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcalde Association, pointed to a continued failure to respect the rights of the Maya people. Coc explained that after 3 years, there is still no roadmap for carrying out what the court has ordered the government to do.

Coc said that the disrespect shown to the Maya continues despite the court order. The government continues to disregard good faith consultations and to delay the process, she said.

Coc said, “We are convinced that the government thinks that they can just dictate and make unilateral decisions.”

Coc said the commission did not meet with them; they only met with them because they were pressured to do so. “At one point they gave us a work plan that they said came from the Solicitor General’s office,” Coc said.

Coc explained that they (the government) hire consultants who do not even speak their (the Mayas’) language.

“They bring in consultants from Guatemala who only speak Spanish,” Coc said.

“At the same time we are being told that we are not going to be provided with our native language translators. Our native languages are Ketchi and Maya Mopan. We are compounded with having to deal with another foreign language on top of the English language that we have to contend with,” Coc said

The attorneys representing the Maya people requested the appointment of a consultant who can only speak Maya.

Today, Coc noted that they are mindful they will have to return to the court because of government’s continued lack of good faith toward the Mayas.

The matter was adjourned for another 6 months.

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Deshawn Swasey

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