The Maya Leaders Alliance has spoken out against oil drilling in the Toledo District. Cristina Coc of the Alliance told Love News Government has no clearance for oil drilling in the Toledo District.
CRISTINA COC - Member, Maya Leaders' Alliance
"We have been seeing in the North and running through other means that there's been again, a lot of talk over oil, virtually, and concessions being granted on Maya land, particularly in areas in Southern Belize that have been named by the Supreme Court as lands that are used and occupied by Mayan people. I think that we've realized that the Government is taking again a very strong position to give clearance to drill for oil in areas that will affect our communities and we thought that it was necessary to put on the record and point out that Government has no legal authority to allow oil activity on our lands, particularly because of the injunction that was granted by the Supreme Court on June 28th of last year, which is very clear. It made an order to the Government of Belize to cease and abstain from any act that might affect the use and enjoyment of our lands. It was specific to say that any such act should carry the informed consent of the community, and this includes concessions to log, concessions to drill for oil or any permits or contracts that might authorize any kind of petroleum activity. So we are very concerned and we want to make sure that the Government understands that this injunction will hold."
REPORTER: So where do you go from here?
"Well certainly if permission was given and Companies began to drill for oil or there was any activity, the Government would be in contempt of Court. And we would certainly make sure that we follow through with that. It would be violating the orders of the Supreme Court of Belize. So we want the Government to know that we are not sleeping, we are aware of what's going on and we are looking and we are waiting to see what else happens, and we will act accordingly."
REPORTER: Do you see any scenario where you can co-exist in terms of the development of the Maya as a People and the development of the Country as a whole, as it relates to oil exploration in that area?
"Absolutely. And that is exactly what we are trying to say. We are not saying no development or no exploration, what we are saying is that for any of these activities to happen, whether it be drilling for oil whether it be any kind of resource extraction, or any kind of development on lands that our people live, it has to be a situation where both Government and the Maya people make those decisions together and sit at equal ends of the table. It can't be that Government makes those decisions without informed consent of the people or without any kind of agreement between both parties. We have to begin to sit together and come to some kind of resolution, but it has to an amicable resolution and the thing is we don't see the Government's will to do that, to sit with us and to partner with us and to help bring about some kind of peaceful resolution. We see them saying, we are going to do what we want to do and we don't care what you think."
Coc says the support from other organizations has been overwhelming.
"We'd certainly like to also expect support along with the Environmental Organization, to help in championing the cause against oil exploration in protected areas. We feel that it's not just Mayan Land. It's also those areas that have been protected for the abundance of.....and that includes our Marine areas. So we stand in solidarity with them, with organizations like APAMO, it's a team like Oceana and Cola, we feel that as Maya people we've always stood against Social injustice, and we agree with them, we agree that it's time for us to stand up with the people and resist where there is an injustice."
Cristina Coc of the Maya Leaders Alliance.