The Sarstoon Temash Institute for Indigenous Management, SATIIM, through its attorney, Eamon Courtenay, has filed an application before the Supreme Court, objecting to the Government’s permission to U.S. Capital Energy to conduct drilling operations within the Sarstoon Temash National Park in the Toledo district.
SATIIM’s Executive Director, Greg Cho’c threw down the gauntlet at a press conference packed with more than 100 Mayan villagers at the Social Security Board’s conference room in Punta Gorda on Tuesday, July 23.
He said the NGO’s including SATIIM have been trying to talkwith the Government for the past 10 months.
“Our environmental laws have been violated, our rights have been violated, and we have been ignored on our Maya customary titled lands.
“We have witnessed hundreds of acres of unique eco-system, the sphagnum moss in the National Park burnt and US Capital Energy is not held responsible. We’re asking for an injunction for U.S. Capital Energy to suspend its operation,” Cho’c said
SATIIM had originally planned to host the press conference in Belize City but had to shift to flying the media down to Punta Gorda when flooding in rural Toledo prevented the villagers from leaving their communities. Those who could, came all the same, in anticipation of hearing their leaders explain why they are taking the Government and US Capital Energy, a foreign oil company operating in Toledo, to court.
Alcaldes from Crique Sarco, Conejo, Graham Creek and Midway villages spoke mostly in their native Qet’chi language with Cho’c interpreting into English, saying they are primarily interested in realizing financial benefits from the US Capital venture.
Crique Sarco’s Alcalde Andres Bol said that they want to see agreements and contracts that would hold US Capital accountable.
“We recognize that development will not occur if we do not alter and change how the equation or the benefits from the resource of our land is being distributed.”
Conejo’s Alcalde Enrique Makin said the development has to be a long term approach, of which they want to be a part.
Midway’s Alcalde Juan Ico said the majority of the villagers in his community were not involved in meaningful participation in the planning and discussion.
“US Capital is among us, but we do not see any benefit – we want to ensure that when we give our consent that there is concrete action and benefit derived from the exploitation of our resources.”
The Association of Protected Areas Management Organization, APAMO, also joined the effort with its Executive Director Edilberto Romero saying that the Government has allowed U.S. Capital Energy to go into the Park and conduct basically the same type of activity that it has denied the NGO’s from conducting.
SATIIM’s application before the court is base on five grounds, including the Forestry Department’s cancellation of SATIIM’s authority to co-manage the Park.