On Friday morning PLUS News and other media houses embarked on a two-day visit to the Toledo District, specifically the Sarstoon Temash National Park and surrounding buffer communities. The issue has been much in the news over recent days due to last Friday’s confrontation between police officers and community leaders who accompanied SATIIM officials on what has been called an “unauthorized” tour. The tour is intended to cover the park in its entirety and the US Capital Temash 2 drill site. On Friday, country representative for US Capital Alistair King says it just wants SATIIM to follow the rules and work with authorities including the Forestry Department.
Alistair King – US Capital Country Representative:
“Has that permission been given as far as you know?”
No, not to my knowledge”
What do you think of today’s trip, do you think the media will be permitted to go along with SATIM to tour the park and other facilities?
Well, I spoke to Mr. Bardalez – the district Forest Officer and I think he will be down there and because of the safety issue – it has to be organized, we can’t have a whole crowd of people going there at one time.
According to Alistair King, his employers are not the ones suffering from a poor reputation as a result of recent events.
So if he chooses to do that when you guys meet him, he’s the boss and that, so he will make that decision. What we asked Greg is if he could give us a list of names and send it to Forestry Department, of who is going and why you wanted to go in and see, and then it would have gone through the due process. That would have been an organized thing, but apparently Greg didn’t want to do that. We’re only doing what we’re allowed to do under our permits issued by the Government. So we don’t see how we can really get a bad image. We applied through all the rules. We work closely with the Government. They have their inspectors down on a regular basis. We can’t do more than what we’re doing. In a way we’re caught up in this fight between SATIIM and the Forest Department.
Mr King was asked for reaction to Thursday’s release from the Ministry of Energy, Science and Public Utilities chiding SATIIM for misleading Maya villagers about last month’s Court of Appeal decision which limited the exercise of rights over Maya communal land in the district. He says that instead of asking SATIIM to do the explaining of what the decision means, maybe the Government should.
You know I live down there, so there’s a lot of misinformation on what the real verdict was on the Appeals court and I think the government needs to get down there or the attorney general’s office or the lawyers and explain to the people what the verdict really meant, because everybody has a different idea. There’s confusion down there and a lot of people don’t really understand what the outcome of that verdict was.
We’ll have more from the tour on Monday including Gregory Ch’oc’s formal reaction to news that he may be resigning his post as executive director of SATIIM. He has promised a statement during the tour but initial reports have already dismissed the allegations as false.