The government will appoint a new commissioner to deal with the carrying out of the C.C.J.’s consent order regarding the issue of Maya land rights and the appellate court’s ruling in the days ahead. On Thursday, however, the Government of Belize will be reporting to the Caribbean Court of Justice with an update on the process of executing the consent order, which was part of a judgment handed down six years ago. According to Minister Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, whose portfolio includes Indigenous People’s Affairs, the previous administration’s process was painfully slow and frustrating, and showing up to the court to report on new developments was quite awkward.

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs

“In 2015, there was the consent judgment of the Caribbean Court of Justice which means that nobody held a gun to the government’s head and said you have to sign on this. So having signed on to it, we must show now the good will to implement. Unfortunately, the process was so very, very painfully slow. So painfully slow in the previous dispensation, if I could call it that, that it was somewhat embarrassing even to go to court for the updates because nothing much was happening. Now, this coming now into the portfolio of a ministry, we really want to make a good go of it. We want to signal a new day of respect, first of all, for all the Maya people and secondly, engagement. We may not always agree because there is the concept of what you call free, prior and informed consent. Now if there are third party rights over land that is leased, if there is the wish to do mining, if there is the wish to fell trees and do forestry, if there might be petroleum under somebody’s feet down in Santa Teresa or Mabilha… But what I want to say is that we have to report to the Caribbean Court of Justice on Thursday and Minister Gilroy Usher and myself plan to sit in to the virtual hearing so that we can signal our government’s willingness to engage. We’re in the process of appointing a new commissioner, not only for the Maya land rights case but also for indigenous people altogether and of course that will include our Garifuna sisters and brothers.”

Channel 5