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Toledo Alcalde Association challenges A.G.’s decision in court

GeneralToledo Alcalde Association challenges A.G.’s decision in court

Photo: Toledo Alcalde Association at court

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. June 13, 2024

The Toledo Alcalde Association (TAA) appeared in court yesterday to seek permission for a judicial review of a decision made by the Attorney General (AG).

The legal move is a response to actions taken by the Attorney General six months ago when the AG intervened in the village of Indian Creek, replacing the alcalde and deputy alcalde based on the recommendation of the Village Council rather than the village community.

This intervention has led the Toledo Alcalde Association to challenge the Government of Belize (GoB) in court on whether the removal and replacement of the two alcaldes was lawful.

Senior Counsel Godfrey Smith, representing the Mayas, explained that removal of the two alcaldes was indeed unjust. “We sought leave for that. The leave was opposed by the government; they said we didn’t have an arguable case. The judge ruled we had an arguable case,” he stated. Additionally, the association requested an injunction to prevent the newly appointed alcaldes from performing their traditional roles pending the trial.

Senior Counsel Andrew Marshalleck, representing the government, stated that the Mayas are attempting to alter the Village Councils Act and the Inferior Courts Act through their claim.

“It’s a conflict between two groups within the same village. And the issue for the government is, whose recommendation do I pay heed to when making their appointments, whether it’s a duly elected Village Council or whether it is votes from village meetings, which they say is their customary practice,” Marshalleck highlighted

The alcalde system involves the appointment of individuals to preside over the alcalde jurisdiction court, which is equivalent to a magistrate’s court. According to Marshalleck, the Inferior Courts Act authorizes the government to make such appointments, similar to how magistrates are appointed to preside over magistrate courts in Belize. This process, governed by the Constitution, does not typically involve elections by the general populace.

On the contrary, Attorney Smith contended that the right of Maya villages to exclusively determine their alcaldes, and the right to remove them, is vested in the village.

“We are saying that the right of their villages to exclusively determine who will be their alcaldes, and the right to remove them, vests in the village, not by virtue of any written law of the land, but by a process of constitutional interpretation utilizing international treaty obligations and international customary law, as has been done when it came to the court’s recognition of the Maya right to customary land tenure. That’s the essence, I think, of the argument that will come,” he said.

High Court Justice Nadine Nabie presided over the initial hearing, but a date for the judicial review has not yet been set.

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