Posted: Thursday, October 29, 2020. 9:38 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA), Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA), and Julian Cho Society (JCS) have accused the Government of Belize as the hand behind the sudden carving up of land considered part of the Maya people’s communal territory in the Toledo District.
The organizations in a joint statement say surveyors have been opening lines through cornfields, cacao fields, and residential areas in and around the villages of Golden Stream, Medina Bank, San Pedro Colombia, Indian Creek, Laguna, San Marcos, and Sunday Wood for the purpose of subdividing lands.
Their investigations say, foreigners, out-of-district non-Maya individuals, and land speculators in the District are involved, but the responsibility lies with the Government, they say, to “cease and abstain from any acts, whether by the agents of the government itself or third parties acting with its leave, acquiescence or tolerance, that might adversely affect the value, use or enjoyment of the lands that are used and occupied by the Maya villages, unless such acts are preceded by consultation with them in order to obtain their informed consent.” This is from the seminal judgment of the Caribbean Court of Justice in 2015 to which both parties agreed.
The MLA and TAA have reported and denounced the actions before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (‘IACHR’) and appealed to that body for precautionary measures against the Government in line with their recognizance of the rights of Maya communities 16 years ago. The groups demand from the Government a list of “the specific and concrete steps it has taken to prevent the actions of third parties and its officials.”
The Government, the MLA/TAA remind, are enjoined by each level of our courts to protect Maya rights to land, including not granting any rights over such land without their informed consent and put a stop to encroaching activities by third parties. But in the absence of such protection, the organizations advise Maya residents of the following: remind the surveyors or land speculators of the legal responsibility of the government of Belize to protect Maya lands; request from the surveyors and land speculators documentation for their intended activity and, most importantly, evidence of the informed consent of the village that allows them to be on village lands; and, from a safe distance, document, record, take pictures or videotape the description of the surveyors and land speculators – vehicle license number, names, where they come from, and any other information you can provide.
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