The Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, it's better known as SATIIM, and its well-known leader Greg Ch'oc has helped to make the NGO a household name.

But Ch'oc, who's been its leader for almost 2 decades, announced today that he's stepping aside for personal reasons. He's going away to study law at the University of the West Indies Cavehill Campus in Barbados. News emerged in August of last year, that he had made the decision, but when we asked him about it, he said that while he had plans to do so, the timing wasn't right.

Well, it seems it is now, and today at a press conference in Punta Gorda Town, he announced that he's stepping aside:

Greg Ch'oc, former Executive Director - SATIIM
"Effective today I step down as the executive director of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management. I have done so with the support of my family, my staff, the board and the community that has stood behind us."

He's going to be replaced by a new executive director, Froyla Tzalam. She's been active within the Mayan communities for several years. She's also been a coordinator for the Maya Leaders Alliance, and she's held the post of Director at NICH's Institute of Social Research. We must note that she is also Ch'oc's sister in law.

And while Tzalam has the right connections, and an impressive resume which includes a master's degree, is she the right fit for the leadership of SATIIM? That's what we asked, given that she is replacing Ch'oc, who has a formidable reputation nationally and among his peers in Civil Society. Here's what she said:

Froyla Tzalam, New Director - SATIIM
"I think one of SATIIMs biggest success is that through Greg it has built alliances with other NGOs within Belize and internationally and so that work must continue. Whether we will do it in the same format, obviously we are two different individuals and so our styles might be slightly different, but our goals and our aim are the same."

New SATIIM Director Faces Challenges

One of the first things that Tzalam takes over is the battle between the Government of Belize and the claimant Mayan communities of the Buffer Zone on either side, and US Capital Energy in the middle.

As we've told you, Justice Michelle Arana has already made a ruling on the issue of Government granting permits to US Capital to drill inside the Sarstoon Temash National Park. The parties were supposed to have participated in court ordered mediation, but today, the Executive Director announced that Government had applied to the court to discontinue this course of action. Here's how she put it:

Froyla Tzalam, New Director - SATIIM
"We were unable to have our legal team present and as he had also mentioned that once more justice is being denied to the claimant communities of the Sarstoon Temash area. As he had mentioned government of Belize had made an application to discharge the mediation order by Madam Justice Arana on August 5th, 2014. However Justice Arana had appointed a mediator after that date which to me shows her commitment to the process. We had all hope that the mediation process was one in we could get the recognition and respect for our customary laws, traditions, customs, institutions and the land tenure system to be fully and effectively addressed."

Then, as we've shown you, US Capital has been slowly gaining ground with the Mayan Communities, but SATIIM maintained that the Claimant Communities stand firm against oil exploration in their land. But, as we told you, a release came from the Mayan Village of Midway that after consulting with representatives from DAVCO, a government entity, they've changed position. Today, we asked SATIIM's executive about it:

Froyla Tzalam, New Director - SATIIM
"What we heard are individuals and it's unfortunate that you didn't hear when Greg mentioned earlier that the greatest danger that we face are not outsiders you know, it is people within our own communities who have their own agendas and so we are mindful that when we hear something being said on the national press we look at the individuals' concern and don't get all excited over what I consider a storm in at tea pot. We are mindful that there will always be these saboteurs, they are being paid. We can only continue working with the communities and continue saying we need to continue fighting because whatever benefits come, we must also have a percentage of that."

Greg Ch'oc, former Executive Director - SATIIM
"We will be meeting with Midway to ascertain the release that we've heard whether it really represent the community or it's a continuation of people within dissatisfied individual in the community making statements. At this point I can't say that it is the position of Midway."

Shortly after the press conference, one of the members of Crique Sarco pulled us aside requesting to set the record straight. He told us that he has attended one of these meetings with DAVCO, where there was misinformation. He claims that DAVCO misreported Crique Sarco's position to Central Government:

Villager of: Crique Sarco
"I was included in the village meeting when DAVCO went and had a meeting at the village of Crique Sarco."

"What do you want to say about it?"

Villager of: Crique Sarco
"I want to let the public know that they (DAVCO) went and confuse the village. We had told them that we want oil, but we are standing on our resolution, a resolution that was filed within the villages and community and we told them not to go and tell the government that we accept oil. That's the same thing they went and did; they went and put it in the media saying that 90% of Crique Sarco is in oil. This is one thing we never did accepted."

SATIIM Will File Civil Suit For Missing Money

Another of the unresolved issues that Greg Ch'oc leaves behind in Tzalam's hand is the issue of more than 250,000 thousand dollars which was embezzled from the organization. As we've told you, the man who was supposed to be the prime suspect, was cleared in the Magistrate's Court.

Today, the outgoing Director told us that there is a civil claim pending against him, which they will file shortly:

Greg Ch'oc, former Executive Director - SATIIM
"We sought legal advice at the urgent of the board. Advice obtained from our legal counsel shows that the statute of limitation should not have applied in this case which is why the charges were dismissed because the charges should have been filed within 6 months. What we found is that this is a hybrid offence and does not carry the limitation. On the advice of our attorney and the claimant and the board of directors of SATIIM I wrote a letter to the acting Director of Public Persecution Mr. Cecil Ramirez asking them to respectfully reinstate those charges. We have not heard from the DPP. However simultaneously we have instructed as Ms. Tzalam said our attorney to initiate civil proceedings which I think in the next 2 weeks, as soon as the Supreme Court opens we will be filing claim at the Supreme Court level. The community and the board feels strongly, we have an obligation to our donors. We are trustees to the funds given to us and we have an obligation to ensure that we expend those funds in the manner that we've agreed with our donors and we take our responsibility strongly and hence those actions that have been initiated."

But, it's hard to look past the facts that several hundred thousand dollars, went missing, from an organization which depends on the donor community for funding. Today, we asked the executives about the assurance that they've given their donors in trying to ensure that there will not be a reoccurrence. Here's how they responded:

Greg Ch'oc, former Executive Director - SATIIM
"Those involved in the donor community, the philanthropic community, those that give to charities recognize and the enormous responsibility that an organization have, but likewise donors give because they have confident in your ability that you have the systems in place to account for those resources. That does not deny the fact that systems are as good as those individuals that are task to use those systems, so they understand the experience we've been through and what they have required of us is to learn from this experience but also to institute and strengthen our internal procedures and mechanism and that is what we have done."

Channel 7