The Government has waived the expiration date of US Capital’s permit that allows the company to conduct pre-drilling work in the Sarstoon Temash National Park. That was done on April thirtieth. That has not settled well with the Sarstoon Temash Institute of Indigenous Management, SATIIM, especially after the NGO has made numerous attempts to seek audience with the Government officials and after the court rulings that affirm the Maya traditional rights.
Immediately following that decision, the representatives of thirty-eight communities gathered at an access point to the operation area of US Capital in Sunday Wood, one of the five buffer communities surrounding the National Park. For years, tensions have been escalating and it appears that this has reached an all-time new high as today, Executive Director of SATIIM, Gregorio Choc, sent a letter to the media. That letter is dated May first and was directed to the Prime Minister of Belize Dean Barrow.
The subject of the letter centers on the waived permit to US Capital which they are calling an act of bad faith. In the letter ,SATIIM stresses the ruling passed by Justice Michelle Arana that quote, “the Government of Belize obtain the free, prior and informed consent of the communities with respect to ANY contract, permit or license that falls within the national park,” end of quote.
Therefore, SATIIM once again stressed that government should and must seek the Maya communities’ consent before proceeding with any further decision to allow drilling in Maya Customary lands. But even with the organization filing a Post Judgment Injunction the decision has been taken by government. Following the recent decisions by government, the organization says quote, “The requirement of good faith can hardly be said to be met when the Government of Belize is supposedly consulting in the context of not considering itself obliged to obtain consent and continues to allow drilling that has been clearly declared by the court to be unlawful to continue while it consults with the communities rather than placing a moratorium on the drilling activity”.
Given the new circumstances, Choc in the letter urges the government to reconsider its position. But along with that letter, Choc also issued a second release, this time a joint release with Midway, Conejo, Crique Sarco and Graham Creek condemning the government’s latest decision in the matter. The release adds that the communities have concluded consultations and have draft resolutions that will be released to the public shortly. That release ends with the leaders saying that quote, “the ‘clench fist’ approach and the determined campaign to scourge the rights of its Indigenous Peoples is not the hallmark of a government of the people, by the people, for the people. It is the historical trademark of a corrupt, inept, despotic and discriminatory government,” end of quote.
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