Letters — 16 November 2012 — by Alfonso Cal

They also do not want Minister Lisel Alamilla to be lead minister in negotiations

November 14, 2012
Hon. Dean Barrow
Prime Minister of Belize
Office of the Prime Minister
Belmopan City, Belize

Dear Honorable Prime Minister Barrow,

The Toledo Alcalde Association (TAA), comprised of the customary leaders of the Maya villages in Toledo, was in the midst of a meeting when you responded to my question regarding our letter to you on LOVE FM this morning.

In your response, as I understood you said, (1) 2% of the working interest will be set aside in a trust to be managed by a committee of both government and community representatives; (2) that you have asked Senator Alamilla to be the lead Minister to engage with the Maya leaders; (3) if we go to court all bets are off the table.

Because we did not have the opportunity to respond to you on the radio, we wish to do so here through this letter. We are copying this to the media so that the public is aware of our response, since they heard what you said.

First, just to be factual, Minister Lisel Alamilla is not from Toledo, and my alcaldes today affirmed that a great many of them do not know her. She has absolutely no history with our alcaldes’ cultural institution. We know she worked in an environmental NGO in Toledo before becoming a Minister.

Recently, she has contacted me to meet and I have asked her for an agenda, and also said I would make the TAA executive available to meet her. She seemed to wish to dictate whom she would meet with, and did not want to meet with the executive.

Nevertheless, I have maintained contact with the Minister’s office and Wiezsman Pat, the administrative officer in her office, on October 29, responded via email: “I will send the agenda once vetted.”

Furthermore, Minister Alamilla received a copy of the same letter dated October 18, 2012, that we sent to you, the Honorable Prime Minister, and the Attorney General.

Like you, she has not responded to our letter. If she has been designated to speak to our people about the oil, she has not done so and neither has anyone from your government.

Second, the Maya people, through our various leaders, had proposed to the government the creation of a trust fund years ago. However, no one from the government has approached us traditional leaders for discussion about any compensation as the owners and occupiers of our community lands on which the oil concession of Block 19 was granted. This “2% of the working interest” you speak of is new to us; this morning is the first time we are hearing of this offer.

We would like more details and clarity on this, especially an interpretation of what exactly the “working interest” means.

Third, the only reason we are considering going to court is because we have learned and are experiencing it again here that this is the only way to protect our rights both as citizens of this country and as an indigenous people. Our government gives us no choice. We only got to hear from you, Honorable Prime Minister, on this issue because you were on the radio and when you replied to my question, I was not given a chance to respond, which is what we would require in a meaningful dialogue.

As traditional leaders of our communities, we have been taught to think not only about our individual interests, but that of each and every member of our communities; not only on our current needs and reality, but with the future of our children’s children in mind. As leaders, we are representing our people and their interests.

Finally, we have said publicly and repeat again that we are prepared to meet with representatives of government urgently to discuss a way forward. We have met with representatives of the company and their position is that our plight is the responsibility of our government, and not of the company.

Very truly yours,
Alfonso Cal
President of Toledo Alcalde Association

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