On Saturday January 5th, 78 First and Second Alcaldes were sworn at Father Ring Parish Hall, Punta Gorda Town. This ceremony was a momentous event for the 38 Maya villages of the south as their traditional leaders take office to lead them into 2013 and 2014.

Special remarks were made by Mr. Enerst Banner of the Ministry of Rural Development who maintained that the ministry will continue to collaborate with the Alcaldes. Inspector Ernel Dominguez, commanding officer of Punta Gorda Police formation, affirmed that the Alcaldes play a very important role in policing and that the police will remain committed to their partnership with the Alcaldes especially through its Community Policing program.

Attorney for the Maya people, Antoinette Moore, spoke on the topic of Rights. She asserted that as Indigenous Peoples, the Maya communities have a right to exercise their own forms of social institutions such as the Alcalde system. Guest speaker Chief Magistrate Ann Marie Smith congratulated the Alcaldes for taking on the mantle of being custodians of law and order especially in these times when crime is becoming more prevalent. She spoke to the Alcaldes on principles of Integrity, Independence and Fairness. She encouraged the Alcaldes to ‘do right when no one is looking’, to be ‘free from improper influence’ and to be ‘balanced in their reasoning.’ The Chief Magistrate asserted that incorruptibility must be a bench mark of all magistrates and ‘to be one of the Alcaldes who cannot be bought.’

The President of the Toledo Alcaldes Association (TAA), Mr. Alfonso Cal, gave his report. He pointed out that while the association had many successes, challenges must not be ignored by the new Alcaldes. Mr. Cal pinned partisan politics infiltration as one of the major challenges that has consistently threatened the integrity of Alcaldes. He maintained that Alcaldes carry the will of the people in their respective villages and as such must strive for solidarity and unity. Mr. Cal recognized that Alcaldes have an obligation to the future of the Maya people and that the future holds many more challenges as oil exploration continues on lands that have yet to be recognized as Maya lands by the government of Belize. He also advised Alcaldes to be alert to Guatemala’s claim over southern Belize stating; “as leaders we will need to decide how to participate in the referendum.”

The ceremonial event concluded with the election of new executive officers for the TAA. Mr. Alfonso Cal was re-elected as President with 55 votes and Mr. Domingo She as Vice-President with 19 votes. The new executive also includes Ignacio Sho, Luis Pop, Juan Choc, Sebastian Pop and Regino Hernandez.

The Toledo Alcaldes Association would like to express its sincere thanks to everyone who helped to make the ceremony a memorable success.