SATIIM to request injunction for US Capital Energy to suspend operations in Sarstoon Temash National Park

SATIIMOn August 1, the NGO Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management (SATIIM) wrote US Capital Energy, a company seeking petroleum deposits in the Sarstoon Temash National Park in the Toledo District. In that letter, US Capital was asked to suspend their activities in the National Park until the hearing of the application for an injunction formally requesting a stoppage. That injunction hearing is scheduled for September 19. The company has written back through attorney Michael Peyrefitte, refusing the request. According to Peyrefitte, the recent decision on communal land rights in the area “can be interpreted as affirming the rights of Mayas to land and resources in southern Belize.” But, he argues, “those rights are not superior to the government’s rights to the oil and minerals under those properties.” SATIM issued a press release condemning the decision. On Tuesday in Belize City we spoke with SATIM’s executive director, Gregory Choc, who was flanked by alcaldes and village leaders from the area.

 

Gregory Choc – Executive Director SATIIM:

vlcsnap-2013-08-14-10h28m50s61What we have been trying to do is, aside from the Court action that we are pursuing, we’re also trying to check and see whether US Capital can live up to its word in what they have been articulating in the community, that they are a social conscious company.  So we have requested our lawyers to write to US Capital to do an undertaking, and they have refused and rejected the community’s request.  Pretty much they’re telling us that we’re purportedly too late in doing so, because they are spending a lot of money, they have made significant investments.

 

 

The release accuses the company of demonstrating “neo-colonial arrogance towards a good faith request made by indigenous peoples” and comments that a “socially conscientious” company would have agreed to the stoppage. It goes on to charge that the company is showing “no regard for the rule of law” and dismisses the claim that the company has thrown much expense into its activities, stating that what they have really been doing is breaking the law since the matter was in court from 2006. The organization and the Maya community leaders continue to ask for the hearing to be moved up. Gregory Choc explains.

Gregory Choc – Executive Director SATIIM:

We’ve asked our legal council to request an urgent hearing from the court.  I do not think that we have received any response as yet.

[We’ll be asking for] an injunction for US Capital to suspend its operations, until the question that we’ve raised in the more substantive claim can be ventilated in Court.  Part of it is whether oil drilling is anticipated by the National Parks Office.  We believe that there should be, based on the law, the law does not permit commercial oil drilling inside the National Parks.

Regarding the co-management agreement in the park, SATIIM continues to hold firm to not signing the new configuration.

Gregory Choc – Executive Director SATIIM:

With regards to the co-management agreement, no progress has been made. We continue to manage the area.  We continue to work diligently to undertake activities that prevent and deter illegal encroachment and pillaging of resources of  the park.  So for us nothing has changed.  We continue to work in the park.  I want to emphasize that we’re doing so because, as the court rightly affirmed, those lands are Maya traditional lands.

Lastly, Gregory Choc speaks about the divisions the saga over land rights has caused in the Maya community.

Gregory Choc – Executive Director SATIIM:

There are members of the community that are looking after their own personal interests, and there’s nothing much that, I think, anyone can do to have them reconsider their position.  The majority of the leadership of these communities want to ensure that there is greater benefit for the community.  They’re looking at the communities collectively taking forefront in any discussions related to benefit sharing or supervising the resources that they depend on.  So, I believe that the community leaders, that stand firm in advancing the larger majority interest, will continue to do so.

SATIIM’s release closes by reaffirming that “we have a duty to protect and preserve our rights and interests.”

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