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CCJ orders reparations for Maya in Belize Print E-mail
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Thursday, 05 November 2015 00:00

cristina.jpg - 105.96 KbThe Caribbean Court of Justice has ordered that the Government of Belize, which has settled the final appeal of the Maya Land Rights case out of court, make reparations with Maya living in the Toledo District.

The Government of Belize, which has been vilified as a group of ministers without any social conscience toward the Maya people, has once again showed that it respects the wisdom of the High Court judges. For 20 years or so the Maya have been fighting for recognition before international courts, and the courts of Belize. This particular appeal case dates back to 2008 when the late Francis Johnston made an incursion onto farmlands in the Golden Stream Village. The Supreme Court of Belize ruled that Maya do have communal land rights, but the Government decided that it was prudent to appeal that decision at the Court of Appeal. Again Maya Land rights were upheld, but the Appeal Court did not make an order against Government to enforce that. Both sides appealed that decision to the highest court in Belize, the Caribbean Court of Justice. Surprising the nation with its magnanimity, the Government, represented by the Senior Counsel Denys Barrow - who the PUP would have you erroneously believe is being overpaid - announced to the CCJ in its first in-person session in Belize, that an out-of-court settlement had been arrived at. The Government has conceded that their land rights, by virtue of their centuries-old heritage exists, and must be protected. The Government also conceded to consult with the Maya on the best way to protect those rights - enjoyed informally - in a formal system such as a land title system.

The Maya decided that this was not enough, and they sued the UDP Government for damages. Their reasoning that because the pre and post colonial governments of the past left the Maya to suffer harm in the use and enjoyment of their land they deserved some form of compensation. Keep in mind, however, that these rights were only just recognized. The Government argued against that trial, and Senior Counsel Barrow made the point to reporters outside of court that the other different ethnic groups have also suffered under the past colonial system. He explained that if the Government conceded this claim of damages, it may be opening itself up to the other ethnic groups who have suffered historically to sue the Government once again in the future.

The CCJ only partially accepted the Mayan claim for damages and ruled that the Government of Belize must make “reparation” by setting up a fund valued at 300 hundred thousand dollars of public funds. Even the Government’s attorney, who technically lost the case, was able to see the wisdom in such a judgment. So with this, and the overarching settlement of the Maya Land Rights case, the Government and the 39 communities of Toledo can start to mend fences.

Last Updated on Thursday, 05 November 2015 16:22