BELIZE CITY, Tues. June 14, 2016–The Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission held a breakfast meeting with the media in Belize City this morning, after which it announced that the consultation process is about to get underway this weekend.
Commission chair, Lisel Alamilla, announced that the Commission will be holding its first public consultation this Friday, June 17, in San Felipe. It moves next to Big Falls on Saturday, June 18, and to San Vicente on Sunday, June 19.
Alamilla said that based on its first round of meetings with elected leaders in Toledo, they had asked the Commission to visit each village.
The chair of the Commission also informed the media of plans to meet this week with officials of the Government of Belize, to report on the work it has done to date and what it plans to do in the near future.
Anthony Ross, QC, the legal expert on the Commission, said that, “…the Commission is of the view that we are past the adversarial process. There is no longer any conflict.”
The Commission was established back in January to implement the 2015 order of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on setting up a system to give effect to Maya customary land tenure in the Toledo District. Ross said that the Commission’s function is assisting to give life to that order.
He said that one of the most salient points is that, this is a consultative process and the starting point—the CCJ order—is already defined. The parties now need to have a good understanding of what the order says. The CCJ order, he said, has been in place for more than a year.
Alamilla said that they have had meetings with the steering committee comprised of members of the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association, two of the claimants in the Maya land rights case. She said that those meetings were followed with a sensitization meeting with NGOs that work in the south and then they started their consultations with elected leaders of all villages in Toledo.
According to Alamilla, there are about 50 villages in Toledo. They have met with Maya and non-Maya groups, as well as persons from Punta Gorda—a total of 9 meetings over a two-week period based on the 9 zones they had mapped out for the meetings, Alamilla told the press.
She told the press that the Commission’s actions must fit within the framework of the Belize Constitution.
“We cannot be discriminating against any group or groups of people,” she said.
As for the timeline for the consultations, Alamilla said: “This is not a project that has a very clear beginning and a very clear end. It is a process that will unfold as we go along. I mean it is, of course, in an area that is geographically very difficult to access.”
(Amandala thanks KREM News for providing us with audio and video recordings for this story, as well as recordings for the official launch of the managed access program for Belize’s fisheries.)