Appointed in January to oversee the implementation of the April, 2015 consent order by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) recognizing customary land tenure within the Toledo District, the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission will this weekend meet with three separate villages.
The Commission travels to San Felipe on Friday evening; visits Big Falls on Saturday and goes to San Vicente on Sunday. Announcing their plans at a briefing following an informal press meeting in Belize City this morning, chairman Lisel Alamilla stated that representatives of 23 villages had asked at a meeting in Punta Gorda Town last month that the Commission meet with individual villages:
Lisel Alamilla, Chairman Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission: Based on a first round of consultations with the elected leaders, they asked that the commission come to each individual community to have consultations with them. So we’re starting that this Friday. Between now and Friday we’ll also be meeting with government officials to discuss the work of the commission and what we have done to date and what we plan to do in the future, in the near future
Previously there were sensitization meetings with NGO’s including the steering committee established by the Maya Leaders Alliance/Toledo Alcaldes Association, whose subsequent appearance at a meeting with elected leaders prompted a confrontation with Alamilla and police. Legal counsel and expert consultant to the Commission, Queen’s Counsel Anthony Ross, emphasized the importance of each Maya person and others affected by the decision getting a say in its implementation; however, he dismissed our questions about whether the MLA/TAA appear to have usurped the leading role in speaking for the Maya people:
Queen’s Council Anthony Ross, Legal Counsel and Expert Consultant to the Toledo Maya Land Rights Commission: What we are saying here is that we’ve got this order and this order has been in existence now well in excess of a year and the question is, is there any dispute as to what the order says? If there is, let us understand the dispute; let us get it clarified so that we can start. If there is no dispute as to what the order says then let’s just get started and move forward. The order said in consultation with the Maya people or their representatives, we are to develop a legislative, administrative or other measures necessary to create an effective mechanism. That’s what we’ve got to do and we know that one side is the government and the government has to be the driving force for this order because that’s what the order said and it’s just to get the cooperation of the other side. And I believe that we’ve moved in the right direction in that there are quite a few of these sensitization meetings that’s happening and sooner or later the people that we are supposed to be consulting will understand that they’ve got to come to the table, we’ve got a mandate and we will go forward with the mandate and hopefully with their input rather than coming to an end result and then trying to justify it to them
Ross added that some of the Maya representatives’ positions conflict with the Commission’s direction, yet they wish them to adopt them in full. As previously mentioned, Alamilla stated that she does not expect a quick end to the process – but she pointed out that the Maya can change that with what they say in upcoming meetings. A press conference following the consultations has also been announced. Today’s meeting was an effort to provide information to the press on the intent and implementation of the CCJ consent order and a behind-the-scenes look at the Commission’s work on the ground. Alamilla is joined on the Commission by former senior public officer and independent consultant Noreen Fairweather and Crown Counsel Randall Shepherd of the Attorney General’s Ministry.