Features — 02 August 2013 — by Adele Ramos

“We want to get to work demarcating and registering our lands”

The Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA)—constituted by organizations such as the Toledo Maya Cultural Council (TMCC), the Kekchi’ Council of Belize (KCB), and the Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA)—issued a formal statement today, appealing to the Government to work with them to resolve their differences over ancestral land rights through dialogue, so that there would be no need for further litigation.

On Monday, July 29, over 300 Maya leaders of Toledo converged at the Julian Cho Technical High School to digest the Court of Appeal’s decision issued last week.

“We are pleased that the court has reaffirmed our peoples’ right to own the land that we use every day and depend on to survive, and that the property system that we inherited from our Maya forefathers is every bit as valid as the property system Belize inherited from the British,” the MLA said in their statement today.

However, the court also set aside a series of orders Conteh had made which were intended to give effect to those rights.

The Maya leaders said they “…were also deeply apprehensive about the section of the decision that absolves our government from protecting those rights and titling Maya lands.

“Our rights were disregarded even when there was court-ordered protection in place, so we cannot help but be concerned that the protection has been lifted.”

They again call on Government officials—and particularly the Attorney General, the Minister of Natural Resources, the Ministry of Forestry and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of the Environment—”to come to the table with the Maya people and work out how to regularize our rights, which can no longer be denied.”

The MLA statement furthermore said, “We want to get to work demarcating and registering our lands, so that both the Maya and Belize as a whole can focus on the more important work of improving the lives of all Belizeans with sustainable development that preserves the environment on which we all depend.”


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