Mayas and GOB Back To CourtOn last Monday's newscast, we told you about the teleconference hearing that the Government, the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association had before the Caribbean Court of Justice.
They were there to report to the CCJ judges what progress, if any, had been made in implementing the Consent Order of April 2015. But if you ask the Mayan claimants in this case, in the two and a half years since the CCJ judgment, the Government hasn't done much to make Mayan Communal Land Rights a real thing.
So, the two sides went back before the CCJ today for another hearing, where they discussed 5 points of disagreement. The attorneys believed the two sides were miles apart from common ground. At the end of almost an hour and a half, the CCJ helped the Government and the Mayan claimants to resolve 4 out of those 5.
Satisfied that this would be the only achievable progress for the day, the hearing was brought to a close.
Outside of court, we got a chance to speak with Lisel Alamilla, the chair of the Government Appointed Maya Land Rights Commission. Her Commission has been the source of the discontent from the Maya who are pushing the implementation of the Maya Land Rights. Here's what she had to say outside the courtroom:
Daniel Ortiz, reporter
"A lot of the complaints seems to have been that the Commission seems to have been that the Commission is moving rather sluggishly slow."
"Are you mindful of this complaint? Do you disagree with it?"
Lisel Alamilla - Chair, Maya Land Rights Commission
"No, I don't disagree with it. It is very slow, but I think it is the nature of this kind of work. The Commission doesn't make all the final decisions. It depends on other decision makers, to make some final decisions that are beyond our remit. And based on conversations that I've had with other people who have been involved in similar work, this is a very slow process, very frustrating for the parties."
"Some countries are still at it a hundred years later, and they haven't resolved their issues with their indigenous peoples, their lands, and their rights. So to say that we are very very slow, and pace is frustrating, I think when you look at it within the global context, it's not really that much time that has passed."
Pablo Mis - Program Coordinator
"We don't accept any at all the justification to say that other countries have taken hundreds of years to resolve. Belize needs to take up its own responsibility. It needs to take a bold step towards addressing the issues of the Maya people."
"We have done much of what the court have reiterated that needed to be done in the past. We've submitted it to the Commission. We've elaborated on a work plan. We've developed an advisory and consultation framework. We've proposed a joint technical team. We've proposed a join technical team to look at legislation. We've proposed independent facilitators. We recognize that this is a very sensitive matter to deal, but we also recognize that there is a lot of willing hands, ready to help us navigate our way through."
"Why did it take us to come to the CCJ? Why didn't we try to work these issues out amongst ourselves?"
"Sometimes it's just the way it has to be. I don't - the court agreed that it would give oversight to the process. So, why not come to the court for certain things that you can't agree on?"
"We're very concerned about the orders that we had to negotiate our way with today. We recognize that these are issues that ultimately the Government will have to take leadership in, but we were hoping that the Government would allow for a space for the Maya people to be a part of understanding how exactly we should be dealing with these injustices. Out of the 5 issues that we had to address today, we had to negotiate 4 of them. We will tell you that we are not truly satisfied."
"The first activity that we did in developing the work plan was to engage the Maya Leaders Alliance and the Toledo Alcaldes Association. We basically asked them to tell us what it is that they wished to be included in the work plan. They gave us their dream list - if you want to call it that, and they are not the only persons who are going to be affected by this order. So, there are other groups that the Government, through the Commission, has to consult. It's slow, yes. I wish that it had been finished by now, but it's not. And like I said, everything is a slow process."
"Is the view of the Maya Leaders Alliance, and yourselves as the leaders of the Maya communities that the delay has been in bad faith?"
"As much as we don't want to believe that, every explanation given, every justification that is attempted to be put forward tells us that this will always be strategy on the part of the Government. There will be constant delays. What we hear now of a work plan, this could have been done between the commission, and the Maya people, had there been good faith in engagement."
"It think everyone needs to be cognizant that this exercise is very very expensive. And, I don't think it's fair to expect that the Government of Belize is going to have the millions of dollars necessary to carry out this exercise in a meaningful manner. So, it is also affected by what we have available in our budget."
"We don't need to spend another million dollars on consultants. We've spent millions already on attorneys, on the part of the Government. We don't need that again to burden the rest of Belize. This is really about the Government of Belize, at the end of the day, coming to terms with we must, and we need to embrace the Maya people's presence, and to bring them around the table, to engage about solutions to these issues, because ultimately, it is the Maya people and Belize that will have to live with these decisions we are working towards."
"It seems a rather enlightening position to take to have some representation on the Commission from the Maya people. In court, you intimated that the Government was fully opposed to this."
"I don't see why everyone seems to think that the only way you can engage the Maya people is through the Commission. The Commission is facilitating a process. It's engaging other stakeholders. So, there are other mechanisms available, whether you're consulting directly with their steering committee, their technical committee, or whichever group they organize. I don't why the insistence that for the process to be inclusive and transparent, it requires them to sit on the Commission. At this moment. That is not the opinion of the Government of Belize."
"Today is a very regrettable day for Belize, and we should keep in mind that the world was watching. Remember that this case came about because the Maya people felt that they were being discriminated against, just to be remind boldly, in front of the learned justices that thought this was the beginning of the healing of a history injustice, just to be reminded that no, the Maya people should not be a part of the helm of charting the way forward, of implementing, is very regrettable."
"You're referring specifically to not being allowed a member, or representation, on the Commission."
"If you recall, I said in my last interview last week that if we are to take the progress of this process, if we were take the commission as an indicator, today, we've learnt that, no, there is nothing much that the Maya people should have expected, can be expecting in their future."
The Commission has committed to producing a final draft of the working plan to implement the judgment, which will be the product of months of consultation with different groups and communities in the Toledo District. That should be ready by January 31, 2018, and on February 19, about 2 weeks after that, the two sides will go back before the CCJ for another report.