A major priority for the new Barrow Administration is the enforcement of the Caribbean Court of Justice’s decision on Maya land rights in the Toledo District. While the Prime Minister believes it had no impact on the elections, it is still important for him to get the matter right before next April’s deadline to report to Port of Spain.
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: Yes it has to be. Both because, it is inherently very important but also there is a time line that the court gave, but again let’s not be confused about what is involved and the sum that the CCJ ordered be put into a fund is not to be given over to these people, they didn’t get any damages. It is merely to kick start the process to which we were already committed of conducting this exercise to help us determine exactly the nature of the rights that we hope to legislate for the Mayans. We know that they have these traditional rights, the court had said so, but nobody has defined these so called customary rights. Whether they’re rights of ownership in fee simple, whether they are so called use of facture rights. So, getting the commission set up, which we needed to do in any event, is a process that will no doubt be hastened now by our endowing the fund, appointing the commissioner trying to resource the commission with the level of expertise that will be required. This is going to be a huge undertaking. It can’t happen overnight, but certainly we need to make a start and we commit to that.
Hon. Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize: No, there is a commission that we will have to setup, and perhaps would need to be placed under some ministry but it has to be a sort of autonomous commission because clearly, it must conduct an exercise that will see it gather testimony compiled reports from the Mayan Community. We’re not quite sure where the majority sentiment is. Those that are the activists, make the most noise, that’s why they’re activists, but I’m not sure that, for example, their notion that Maya Land Rights should take the form of communal title is a majority position. All that the commission will have to do so, while it might be associated with a ministry, it is not for the ministry to do the work, it’s for the commission, and that’s why I repeat it will cost a pretty penny. We will need a full time lawyer whose perhaps skilled in these matters. We’ll need several resource persons administrative staff, it’s a huge undertaking but I don’t see that figuring into the ministerial configuration.