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#340962 - 06/11/09 02:32 PM Maya Land Rights Case goes to Court
Marty Offline

The Government of Belize and Maya from Southern Belize are back in court this week, arguing over customary land rights. Attorney Antoinette Moore is representing villagers from twenty-three villages in the Toledo district as well as several village alcades who are asking the court to protect their Constitutional rights to property and equality. This morning Moore maintained that her clients are not asking for anything they aren’t entitled to.

Antonette Moore, Attorney for Mayans
“They are asking for protection from infringements upon their land until their lands can be titled through the government of Belize. This is a matter in which there has been some controversy as to whether this is imposing upon all the villagers the customary land tenure system of the Maya and it certainly is not. In my opening I said very clearly to the court that the claimants are seeking protection until the lands can be titled if they so choose. So if the villages determine that they do not wish to pursue a communal title and under the customary land tenure system there is no imposition, they certainly are free to do whatever they have to do.”

Janelle Chanona,
Miss Moore can you clarify who exactly you are seeking protection from?

Antonette Moore,
“From the government of Belize and the infringements, unfortunately that have occurred over many years. The one primary example which really brought us back to this court is what happened in Golden Stream. In Golden Stream there was a non-Mayan individual who claims to have a lease however there is no evidence, now that we are at trial, that he has a lease other than him saying that.

The mere claim of this individual to have a paper lease was seen as superior to the customary land tenure of this Mayan farmer and the village. And so that is really what started this, in a sense. Obviously you all know that this is a matter that goes back many years but what started this round of the dispute was this incident but there are many, perhaps many is going too far, but there are a number of instances where Maya farmers are treated in a discriminatory manner. They are treated as if their property rights are less than the property rights of other Belizeans who have a paper perhaps. And so this is why now they are seeking to have a paper and protection over their land so that their land rights and other rights will not be infringed upon.”

And paper is not only at the heart of this case, it is threatening to drown the court. Moore has filed no less than fifty-one affidavits from villagers and alcades as well as experts on the history of the Maya and their occupation in what is now Southern Belize.

Channel 7

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#340963 - 06/11/09 02:34 PM Re: Maya Land Rights Case goes to Court [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Professor Wilks Says the Mayans Never Left

Earlier we told you about the Maya land rights case that’s being heard in the Supreme Court. Attorney Antoinette Moore is representing villagers from twenty-three villages in the Toledo district – but what really are their rights to the lands they are claiming? The Government’s position backed up by archaeologist Dr. Jaime Awe is that the ancestors of the Mayas now living in Belize did not continuously occupy Southern Belize because when the Spanish arrived, they were all relocated to Guatemala. Anthropologist and Archaeologist, Professor Richard Wilk took the stand to refute that today. Wilk says that statement is factually wrong.

Richard Wilk, Anthropologist
“There is an old idea that at one time the entire Toledo District was empty and there was no one living there for hundreds of years and we have discovered over the last 20 years very good evidence that that is not true and that people were hiding and didn’t want to be home. Of course they had very good reasons not to want to be found because their experience of the Spanish and the British buccaneers was not very good. So it has taken some time to find that evidence but I think now there is no question that there were Mayan people living in the Toledo District from thousands of years ago, right up to present day.”

The Attorney General is being represented in the case by Lois Young. Young is expected to make their submissions to the court on Thursday.

Channel 7

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