Features — 03 October 2014 — by Adele Ramos
Maya leaders to propose framework for consent agreements by oil, forestry industries

BELIZE CITY–Litigation proceedings aimed at resolving the land rights claim of the Maya of Toledo begin at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) with a case management session on October 13, and while the parties — the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Government of Belize, still intend to proceed with their claims at the CCJ, the parties met last Thursday, September 25, to initiate dialogue which the Maya delegates hope would lead to a final resolution of the problem.

Cristina Coc, spokesperson for the Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA), told Amandala today that even when the case concludes in the months ahead, the Maya people are not going anywhere and it is in the best interests of both parties to resume dialogue in order to turn the rights of the Maya into reality.

An MLA press release issued Tuesday said that the Alcaldes’ Assembly had commissioned a delegation to hand-deliver their letter to Prime Minister Dean Barrow at his office in Belmopan. That delegation included Coc; Alfonso Cal, president of the Toledo Alcalde’s Association (TAA); Adriano Mas, former alcalde of Indian Creek Village and MLA member; Jose Che, alcalde of San Pedro Columbia Village; and Augustine Sho, alcalde of Bladen Village and executive member of the TAA.

In the letter, the Maya leaders assert their collective rights as a people to traditional lands and resources.

“It also notifies the Government of Belize that the alcaldes are developing a proposal for a framework for consent agreements by oil development and other extractive industries for activities on our Maya traditional lands. The framework will specify various aspects that must be included in any consent agreement with Maya villages for oil-related development activities,” the release added.

Coc said that the exploitation of forestry resources is also an issue. The Maya leaders say that “…all consent agreements should include but are not limited to: impact assessment, mitigation and monitoring; compensation for land use and disturbances; and benefit-sharing.”

According to Coc, the Prime Minister indicated that what the Government wants from the CCJ is a clarification on the nature of the rights of the Maya people and the extent of those rights, so that the Government can implement the required measures.

“The Prime Minister assured the Maya leaders that the Government agrees that the Maya people must be respected, consulted, and included in initiatives that impact or can impact our communities. He communicated a welcomed commitment to dialogue and engagement with the Maya people. We are encouraged by this new commitment from the Honourable Prime Minister,” the MLA statement said.

“We hope that this meeting with the Prime Minister is a part of a process that will enable the Maya people to develop long-term plans on the use, enjoyment, and management of our natural resources. These plans form part of a vision to revitalize our Maya communities and guarantee their prosperity,” it added.

Coc said that they will wait for Prime Minister Barrow to send a formal reply to the letter from the Toledo alcaldes, as he has committed to doing. No date is yet set for a follow-up meeting, she told us.

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