Thursday, April 23 2015. Aaron Humes Reporting: As we reported on Wednesday, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) entered a consent order agreed to by the Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA) and Toledo Alcaldes Association along with the village leaders of 23 villages in the Toledo District and the Government of Belize, in which the latter concedes that the Maya have and retain communal land rights in the Toledo District among the 38 Maya villages therein, and shall be consulted by the Government before any leases, permits, concessions and other items are released.
It is monumental and far-reaching and the Maya people took a moment to reflect in their quiet and humble way on how far they have come. President of the Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA), Alfonso Cal, said Wednesday’s decision means everything for the Maya people who have come a long way but have for the most part worked together.
Cal’s counterpart Martin Chen, the chair of the Maya Leaders Alliance, expressed his joy at the outcome, which he says is for all Belizeans.
For the public face of the Maya fight for recognition, Cristina Coc, it was an emotional moment and she made no apologies for it. She reminded the gathering of the late Julian Cho, who before his untimely death was a fierce representative of the Maya people.
Despite the sweeping nature of Wednesday’s judgment there remains opposition within the Maya community itself to the very idea of communal land rights. The Alliance and the Alcaldes Association have long maintained that their opponents are ignorant of the scope of the issue or are short-sighted. The long, hard rift between the Mayas themselves and between them and other ethnic groups of the South and all of Belize must be healed, and MLA spokesperson Cristina Coc acknowledged just how difficult that will be, because there are those who continue to oppose them. She maintains that no choices have been taken away from the Maya people including the right to individual land title, which will be subsumed in the greater communal property.
Coc called for the traditional and modern leaders alike to be voices of hope, reason and reconciliation.