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SATIIM and others celebrate Supreme Court victory; ask fellow Maya leaders for input

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Posted: Monday, June 21, 2021. 1:44 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The organizations Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM); Toledo Maya Cultural Council (TMCC) and Kekchi Council of Belize (KCB) have congratulated the village of Jalacte, Toledo District and its leaders for their victory reported last week in the Supreme Court.

Separately, SATIIM and its fellow organizations the TMCC and KCB called on the Julian Cho Society, the Maya Leaders Alliance, and its advisors on the Land Tenure Facility to follow the recommendations of the Caribbean Court of Justice to welcome input from other Maya groups on the issue of communal land rights, stating, “Maya communities need to set a good example of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.”

Acting Chief Justice Michelle Arana held the Government of Belize liable for violating the Constitutional guarantees to equal protection, land holding and others by usurping 31.36 acres of land in and in the vicinity of the village for the purpose of building a highway link to the San Antonio Road and Southern Highway. She ordered as much as $6.3 million in compensation.

“This ruling is an important reminder to everyone – whether public officials or private parties – to follow the international standard of Free, Prior and Informed Consent to ensure transparent agreements with Maya villages,” Maya Ch’oc, Executive Director of SATIIM, was quoted as saying.

She added, “Given the impact of this week’s ruling by Acting Chief Justice Michele Arana’s $6.3 million dollars in damages for Jalacte, SATIIM urges the Government of Belize to work along with Mayan communities to complete a working document to guide all parties on development activities.”

Ch’oc, successor to now-Governor General Froyla Tz’alam, said she anticipated joining the Steering Committee to add its own developed participatory methods for community mapping and boundary agreements.

“It is important that all Maya communities set a good example of how to implement Free, Prior and Informed Consent – starting with including all of our input on the FPIC draft document,” added Pedro Kukul, leader of KCB. 

The JCS, led by Cristina Coc, has received more than a million dollars from the Land Tenure Facility to facilitate community consultations on Maya land tenure. However, its insistence to only consult with representatives of the Toledo Alcalde Association has resulted in conflict and division among Maya communities in a process that should instead unite them, the joint statement concluded.

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