SATIIM charges intimidation of Park Rangers by Police

vlcsnap-2013-08-22-10h54m06s88On Friday morning PLUS News was informed, via text message by Executive Director of the Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, that “Police attempted to intimidate SATIIM [and] traditional leaders from patrolling their traditional lands.” SATIM has refused to sign on to a co-management agreement with the Government of Belize and as a result is effectively barred from even making an appearance on land which it says is part of its communal lands. With the case in court, SATIIM have publicly vowed to continue their work in the area, and for the most part, the Government has let them. Now, the organization is making allegations of what it considers to be intimidation by the State, through the Police. We spoke Friday afternoon via telephone with Cordelia Requena, SATIIM’s environmental program manager.

Cordelia Requena – Environmental program manager SATIIM:

vlcsnap-2013-08-26-08h19m43s238Satiim vesselJust a couple of minutes after nine, SATIIM Rangers along with nine community leaders were about to embark upon a patrol into the Sarstoon/Temash National Park.  At that time they were approached by two Police officers from the Toledo Formation.  The Police officers requested the persons on board the vessel if they could get their names and date of birth.  They also requested to search the vessel.  Upon asking them the reason for their requests, we were told that they were just under the orders of the Officer in Charge of the Toledo Formation, and they couldn’t provide us with any other information.  It was their second visit at which I was present.  On the first visit the rangers and the few community leaders that had already arrived had complied and had provided the information requested.  It was only on the second visit, when I was there, they made they made the request and we had started to ask why that information was necessary, and that was when they had stopped recording that information.

The police commander, Robert Mariano, has not been in contact and according to Cordelia Requena there has been no notice from the Forest Department or Minister in charge Lisel Alamilla of any advance notice to stop SATIIM from doing what it calls a “routine patrol” of the park. The community leaders come from surrounding villages such as Graham Creek, Crique Sarco, Conejo and Midway. Cordelia Requena says the organization has no choice but to view the incident as an official warning.

Cordelia Requena – Environmental program manager SATIIM:

Satiim actionWe just viewed this as a step that the Government is taking in trying to declare SATIIM Maya communities from patrolling the area.  As you can recall, they formally did end their co-management with SATIIM and the communities.  However, the park, as you may know, falls under communal lands of these same communities.  These communities recognize the importance of maintaining the ecology and integrity, and safeguarding the resources within the park, and it is also in the national interests of the country.  We patrol the Southern Boarder the  Sarstoon river, and it’s with their interests to try to curb illegal activities that occur from illegal incursions from Guatemalans. We’re looking at it as communal lands.  The traditional leaders of those communities have a right to enter  their community lands.

But the organization says that if it is a form of intimidation, they are not buying in, and they intend to keep pressing on.

Cordelia Requena – Environmental program manager SATIIM:

SATIIM is a community organization.  We get our mandate from the communities.  Our mandate will continue to be to continue management of that area.  We will continue with our activities in conducting patrols within the area.

Earlier this week, the organization got assurances from the US Capital Energy company that it would postpone drilling in the park until November, but attorney Michael Peyrefitte said nothing stopped the company from preparing to drill.

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