BELIZE CITY, Tues. Jan. 19, 2021– One of the topics that were brought up on Tuesday during an interview of Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs, Hon. Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, by members of the media, was the issue of Maya land rights. Back in 2015, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had issued a consent order that mandated the UDP government that was in place at the time to clearly define the customary land rights of the Indigenous Maya of Southern Belize.
According to Hon. Balderamos-Garcia, however, little or no progress had been made over almost six years to carry out the definition of those land rights that the CCJ had ordered the Belize government to get done. In January 2020, Foreign Minister Wilfred Elrington had made reference to some progress that had been made, stating that the Cabinet had given approval for the appointment of a mediator who would, in compliance with the CCJ’s order, review the concerns and complaints put forward by the Maya community.
To date no one has been named mediator to carry out such a review; however, Minister Balderamos-Garcia stated that on Thursday, the Ministry will be providing the CCJ with an update and will also be appointing a new Commissioner who will be overseeing the Maya Land Rights case and issues related to indigenous people altogether.
During an interview with Balderamos-Garcia that was aired on News5, she said the following:
“Now, this coming now into the portfolio of a ministry, we really want to make a good go of it. We want to signal a new day of respect, first of all, for all the Maya people and, secondly, engagement. We may not always agree, because there is the concept of what you call free, prior and informed consent. Now, if there are third party rights over land that is leased, if there is the wish to do mining, if there is the wish to fell trees and do forestry, if there might be petroleum under somebody’s feet down in Santa Teresa or Mabilha… But what I want to say is that we have to report to the Caribbean Court of Justice on Thursday, and Minister Gilroy Usher and myself plan to sit in to the virtual hearing so that we can signal our government’s willingness to engage. We’re in the process of appointing a new commissioner, not only for the Maya Land Rights case, but also for indigenous people altogether, and of course that will include our Garifuna sisters and brothers.”