Lisel and the Land
At the close of 2020, Lisel Alamilla remained Chairperson of the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission, But this week a mere month after remitting that office. Alamilla is representing private interests - an ecological reserve - which owns thousands of acres of private land opposite the indigenous territory of Indian Creek Village.
Minister of Human Development and Indigenous affairs Dolores Balderamos Garcia told LOVE TV yesterday that she was disappointed.
Voice of: Hon. Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Minister of Human Development
"That statement that was put out, not only is it unhelpful, but I cannot look at it as being in good faith, because she is well aware that where you have competing interest of third parties as opposed to the Maya customary land rights, there has to be consultations, respect and dialogue to try to come to an agreement, so I just want to say that personally I feel very dismayed that she has taken that position knowing full well the complex issues and the role of the commissioner. We have a new commissioner now in the person of Mr. Gregory Choc and he has given us a report of what is happening in Indian Creek and that the very least there ought to have been before any kind of big media release, there ought to have been proper consultation and a respectful dialogue."
Also speaking out against Alamilla's new gig and the land interests it represents was spokesperson for the Maya Leadership Alliance, Christina Coc. She says that Alamilla now has "rangers" in the area who block the road and tell villagers where they can and cannot go.
Cristina Coc, Spokesperson, MLA, TTA
"The former chair from 2016 to December 2020 held a contract with the government of Belize and held the responsibility to properly implement the order of the Caribbean court of justice. So, Miss Alamilla is fully aware of the consent ruling. She is aware of where those claims are, she is aware of the 41 Maya villages, she is aware of Indian Creek village customary lands, use and application of those lands have been held by that village and members of that village and so she should also be aware that any competing interest in those lands does not extinguish the rights of the members of Indian Creek to their customary claim of those lands and thereby to the protection of those lands. We became aware through national publication of the Amandala newspaper which Miss Alamilla send agents to distribute to the village themselves, it was perhaps unpreceded that it's the first time that the Amandala newspaper was handed out free of cost to hundreds of copies in the village. We saw more recently agents that claim to be sent by Miss Alamilla to block the road using big boulders that they were putting in the road. Again, just to intimidate and harass the communities."
We reached out to Alamilla for Comment and she told us, quote: "What is noticeably absent in the recent declarations is a lack of clarity about freehold property. Is it that freehold titleholders' constitutional rights are considered null and void? Is it that title holders are not entitled to due process?
The government must make a declaratory statement as it relates the constitutional right of title holders within the 2,000,000 acres that the Maya are claiming as their customary land.
It's important to elevate the discussion on substantive matters. The Maya should get what they are legally entitled to but the government has a duty to see that all legal titleholders in Belize get the benefit of the rights enshrined in the constitution." End quote.
She also shared these maps, explaining that the area in the black island that is claimed as Mayan land but that those designations are merely a starting point.