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#510610 - 01/13/16 05:25 AM A Commission for Toledo Maya Land Rights  
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Attorney General Vanessa Retreage has appointed the members of the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission. The Chairman of the Commission is Lisel Alamilla while Noreen Fairweather and Randall Shepherd are the members. Attorney Anthony Ross, who has experience in Indigenous Affairs, has been retained as expert consultant to the Commission. The primary responsibility of the Commission is to implement the consent order of the Caribbean Court of Justice which ruled that Government adopt affirmative measures to identify and protect the rights arising from Maya customary land tenure. It is expected that the Commission will establish a structured framework to ensure collaborative consultation and participation of key stakeholders, mainly focusing on the twenty three villages, including Conejo and Santa Cruz, the Maya Leaders Alliance, and the Toledo Alcalde Association. The Office of the Commission will be located at the Attorney General’s Ministry in Belmopan City.


#510722 - 01/16/16 04:53 AM Re: A Commission for Toledo Maya Land Rights [Re: Marty]  
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The Commission For Mayan Reparations

On Tuesday, we told you that the Government of Belize finally appointed the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission. This Commission will implement the Consent Order for Maya customary land tenure, which was handed down by the Caribbean Court of Justice. But, that's after several months of anxious waiting from the Maya. They want their land rights on the law books to ensure that there will be no more fighting with the Government over the lands that the communities occupy.

Well today, the Commission members introduced themselves publicly with their first press conference, and they told the press that as of right now, they will go to the Maya Communities with no expectation, and with a completely open ear.

The Commissioner, Lisel Alamilla said that the commission has been active for 3 days now:

Lisel Alamilla - Head, Toledo Maya Land Rights
"Since Tuesday we were appointed by the attorney general and we have been meeting since Tuesday up to yesterday evening. So far the government of Belize has been doing kind of behind the scenes work in getting organized. The government has so far allocated the 300 thousand it was ordered to set aside as really seed money to implement consent order. That has already been assigned to the attorney general's ministry and the budget has been prepared. We have already started procuring all the equipment that we needed to open a functional office."

Anthony Ross, QC - Expert Consultant, Commission
"The order of the Caribbean Court of Justice is quite clear. The effect of it that Maya customary land tenure exists in the Maya villages in Toledo and gives rights to collective and individual copyrights within the meaning of sections 3D and 17 of the Belize Constitution. So it is not a situation that the government has got to abandon the general good of the people of the Belize to give effect to the order and where there is conflict between the private rights as set out in the order and the public good, it is my experience that the public good will always trump the private rights. Not to suggest for a minute the adversarial processes over. There was a lawsuit, there were claims. Everything has been resolved and there is now a court order. The court order said this is what you must do. It is no longer this is what we like somebody to do and the defense says, no we do not want to do that, we want to do something else. No that is gone. So that I would really hope that another atmosphere of cooperation rather that confrontation will prevail and I think that it's going to be very important that everybody understand that it is a little if anything in the court order that needs interpretation."

The Maya Land Rights Commission is made of the Chairman, Lisel Alamilla; 2 commissioners Noreen Fairweather, and Randal Sheppard, and their expert consultant, Queens Counsel Anthony Ross. So, what's the expected term and mandate of this Commission? That's what we asked; here's our back and forth with her:

Daniel Ortiz
"What are your ideas at this time of what Maya customary land rights will look like and how will it be equivalent to private property rights?"

Lisel Alamilla - Head, Toledo Maya Land Rights
"We don't know how this will look. So I really can't respond to that. That would be going far ahead of where we are in the process."

Daniel Ortiz
"What assurances can you give for this commission, while being appointed at this present moment is not going to lose steam, not going to fall to the wayside in terms of trying to resolve the conflicts between the Mayas and the government of Belize?"

Lisel Alamilla - Head, Toledo Maya Land Rights
"Well, I can give the assurance that the Prime Minister and the entire cabinet is committed to this process. They have allocated monies beyond 300 thousand and I think they have appointed people with the capacity and the respect to be able to implement this consent order and I think that a first signal that we are serious about it, but the process cannot succeed if the Maya people are not willing to come to the table in dialogue. So it's dependent on their participation. So if it falls to wayside it won't be because the government is not committed to the process."

But, while the Commission is working to ensure that Maya Customary Land Tenure becomes a reality, they are stepping into murky waters with implications for the entire country. So, has the commission taken into consideration the conflicts that could arise between the Maya Communities and the other ethnic groups which call Toledo their home? One such contact is the case between Rupert Myles and the Villagers of Santa Cruz, which has become a flashpoint. Here's how the Chairman answered that one:

Lisel Alamilla - Head, Toledo Maya Land Rights
"This is where we have to continuously remind ourselves that everything has to be resolved under the constitution of Belize. So Mr. Myles case is an incident that create a lot of buzz and dialogue and concerns about how other ethnic groups coexists with the Maya in Toledo and I'm sure that will come up as part of the process of dialogue, but we don't want to be distracted with that issue. That I imagine is already in the courts and its being address there. But we are not going to be distracted by that in regards to implementing the consent order."

The Commission says that their next step is to reach out to the Mayans in the Buffer Communities to start the consultation process on how their Customary Land Rights should be protected.

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#516127 - 07/21/16 05:19 AM Re: A Commission for Toledo Maya Land Rights [Re: Marty]  
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 52,610
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Maya Case At CCJ

Yesterday via teleconference, the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Maya Communities named as claimants in the Maya Land Rights case went back before the judges of the Caribbean Court of Justice. They were there along with the legal representative of the Government to give an update to the court on how far along the Government is in implementing a system which officially recognizes and protects communal land rights.

The Land Rights Commission, set up by the Government of Belize, has only just started preliminary consultations with the 39 Maya communities, and they're a months away from arriving at a suitable system. So, the Government attorney communicated that to the CCJ, and when they were given their opportunity to address the CCJ judges, the Maya Leaders made sure to mention their grievances with the Government related to the Jalacte and Santa Cruz. As viewers are aware, the Maya from Jalacte have complained that the Government ejected Maya farmers to widen the Jalacte Road and to set up the Agricultural Ministry's Outreach Station. Of course, the Santa Cruz villagers remain upset about the fact that Rupert Myles squatted on the research for the UxBenka Maya Site. After the hearing, we spoke with MLA representative Cristina Coc about the issues raised:

Christina Coc - Mayan Leaders Alliance
"We had a hearing before the Caribbean Court of Justice by way of teleconference. It is with respect to the reports that have been submitted by both parties the government and the Maya people. We each submitted reports and the Caribbean Court of Justices wanted to seek clarification and seek further under takings with respect to those reports. On the part of the Maya people we raised issue with the ongoing violation even though we have a Caribbean Court of Justice order which affirms our rights for our lands and resources we continue to have numerous violations on our lands such as lodging, land sales and even the government taking away lands from subsistent farmers in villages like Jalacte and in the case of Santa Cruz the trespass case. And so the CCJ basically raised issue with the council for the government and said what do you have in place to remedy that? What will you consider to do with respect to those ongoing violations and providing redress for them. Short of coming to court because the CCJ raised the fact that coming to court is very costly not just for the indigenous people not just for the Maya people but for the government of Belize. They sought the consideration of the government to consider setting up a body that would have the capacity and be equipped to provide redress and to solve some of these issues given the fact that the commission continues to say that they are not set up with the capacity to resolve some of these issues."

Also, the Maya Leaders Alliance are complaining that the Maya Land Rights Commission has depleted the entire 300,000 dollars ordered by the CCJ to be set as reparations to implement the consent order. Coc told us why the Maya are not pleased about how the money has been used:

Christina Coc - Mayan Leaders Alliance
"We raised the issue of the 300 thousand dollar fund that was set aside for reparation for the Maya people as a first step to implement the CCJ order. The Caribbean Court of Justice sought the consideration of the government again saying to them you know we need to understand what has happened, what is the commitment of the government. We realise it would take a lot money to implement, what is the government doing? Is it seeking international support? Has it reached out to the United Nations? Who would be willing to help government implement rulings that are favourable to indigenous people? They could not answer whether or not they've done any of that. In fact they only say they have expended an exhausted 300 thousand dollars already that was set aside as a first step and the only thing they accounted for was rental for their office space, for furniture that was bought and for paying staff. While at the same time Maya people continue to raise issue with that because our understanding was that it would support our participation and involvement in these consultations with the commission; when in fact it has not. Every time our people have come to meetings we've asked for reimbursement of bus fares which fairly cheap and the government and the commission has said we don't have the money to give you. At the same time when it meets with NGOs and other stakeholders it offers not only bus compensation but compensation for their time. And so this is contrary to what you would consider good faith consultations. In addition to that the CCJ justices raised the concern of whether or not the Maya people were consulted when the commission was constituted and when it was set up; whether or not their inputs were sought with respect to having representation, joint representation on the commission. And I know you all have asked us that question as well in the past." 

We spoke with Commission Chairman Lisel Alamilla tonight via phone, and she told us that the Commission stands behind the use of the 300 thousand dollars because the money was used to implement the order.

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