General — 20 June 2014 — by Kareem Clarke

He says the organization has “no proper standing” in negotiations with southern communities

For quite some time now, SATIIM – the Sarstoon-Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, has been advocating for the rights of the buffer communities surrounding the Sarstoon Temash National Park, and lambasting US Capital Energy (Belize) Ltd. and the Government of Belize (GOB) for not consulting with those communities in their eagerness to proceed with oil exploration; however, Prime Minister Barrow has concluded that the indigenous advocacy group is not even a factor where those consultations are concerned.

According to Barrow, SATIIM is simply an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization) and has no say as it relates to discussions in regards to oil drilling in the national park.

He said, “There are court proceedings with respect to that, and as I understand the judgment of Madam Justice Arana, SATIIM has no standing. It is okay that they went there [to court] as an advocacy group, but when the ruling said you need to do A, B, C or D with certain of the claimants, it was made clear that that does not include SATIIM.

“So, Government is acting in a manner that’s perfectly consistent with the court ruling in saying that it will not treat with SATIIM on this issue. If the Toledo Alcaldes Association, recognized by law, which appears to be a part of Miss Coc’s Maya Leaders Alliance, if they wish to speak to me, I would be perfectly happy to sit down and talk about this thing, but don’t tell me that we must engage with SATIIM when SATIIM is an NGO and can have no proper standing to say to government, ‘we are the ones with whom you must reach some sort of agreement.’

“In any event, the matter is in court, and Government maintains its position that it will comply with court decisions, but that of course, we absolutely support the drilling for oil in the national park, which has, in principle, been green-lighted by the courts so that hopefully oil might be found to benefit the entire Toledo District and indeed the larger country of Belize.”

Yesterday, however, the Maya Leaders’ Alliance (MLA) responded and issued a general statement in which they apparently stood in solidarity with the Rod of Correction (ROC) in highlighting national issues, and noted that “What we are all really fighting for is a dignified life, one full of respect, and flooded by justice and truth. Our collective struggle is to construct a more democratic and more inclusive Belize.”

Unflinching in their traditional beliefs, the MLA also declared that “when our dreams, the security of our homes, our lands, and our resources are threatened by our Government’s failure to recognize our inherent rights as a people, we are obligated to stand firm to demand justice and protect dignity.”

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