BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 8, 2018– The Referendum Unit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been working in the Maya villages of the Toledo District, but their work has given rise to questions about the impartiality of the methods that are being employed, and this has prompted Pablo Mis, the Program Coordinator of the Mayan Leaders Alliance, to appeal for respect of the process and to caution those conducting the operation to not attempt to extract answers that are supportive of the government.
Mis calls for the referendum campaign to be conducted in a fair, independent and objective manner.
“Given the magnitude of this concern, we have been in touch with the Referendum Unit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; they are the ones who are tasked to lead the awareness campaign. They have since informed us that while they are undertaking educational campaigns, the collection of any data of any names is not a part of such campaign. That said, we are hopeful, the association is hopeful that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would issue some kind of a statement to denounce the actions and the act of those that are currently going house to house in the villages collecting names,” Mis explained.
Mis added, “The second is that we want to reiterate to the Government of Belize that as a part of the Belizean family, the people of Toledo District, particularly the Mayan communities, are perhaps those that will find themselves in the frontline and most impacted by whatever decision is taken. In that regard, we want to again reiterate our call to the honorable Prime Minister to ensure that the representation, particularly of the Mayan communities, is visible and fully a part of every step of this process.”
Mis said that they are greatly concerned over some of the activities that have been happening in their communities as it relates to the ICJ and the Guatemalan claim.
“We want to ask the Belizean population to join the Maya people in rejecting and opposing any attempts to frustrate, intimidate or to coerce the decision of Belizeans with respect to whether this matter should go to the ICJ or not. Over the past couple of weeks we have been receiving complaints from alcaldes, and villagers, explaining that there are individuals within their communities who appear to be organized in groups visiting families and collecting the names of family members, asking for their identification cards and Social Security cards and asking whether they support the Government of Belize’s position to take the matter to the ICJ,” he said.
Mis explained that the concerns of the Maya people were put to Prime Minister Dean Barrow in writing last October, but his response was not encouraging.
“At the beginning of 2017, the newly elected seventy-eight alcaldes passed several resolutions. One of them was for the office of the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association to begin looking at the Guatemalan claim, and what the Government of Belize is doing with respect to that matter. As a result of that, we wrote the government, the Prime Minister, in October of 2017, informing him that the Mayan people are concerned, and they would like to see that a proper space be given to the representatives of the Maya people in the entire discussion and planning of how the country would like to resolve this matter. The immediate response of the Prime Minister basically was to the effect that the education campaign will be intensifying… Our fight has not been to the expense of turning over land to Guatemala, our fight has been very firm on the pillar that as a part of the Belizean family our duty is to the development of the people of Belize and of this young nation,” Mis said.