If the Government of Belize allows the festering Maya protest in the south to go to the Caribbean Court of Justice, there is a good probability that GOB will lose again!
SATIIM and its associate organizations have already won in the Supreme Court and most recently in the Court of Appeal. They will win again if the matter goes to the CCJ.
The Maya protest in the south has moved from its original hard stance of complete opposition to any exploration work on Mayan lands in Toledo to a more conciliatory attitude.
What they now want is respect! They want to be consulted on development matters which affect their homeland, and they want a share in whatever economic benefits deriving from these developments.
That is reasonable considering that Toledo is the richest and most pristine part of our country. It is also beset by many problems, some of which were enunciated recently by Miss Audrey Wallace, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, at a recent conference on the Chiquibul Forest.
Belize will need the active help of the Ketchi Maya Indian community and their friends to tackle many of these problems, and these Mayan community leaders have shown themselves conscientious, even zealous and sometimes nettlesome for the cause of Maya Indian solidarity and their homeland in Toledo.
This is an aspect of nationalism that will not go away, and the Barrow Government will have to find a way to deal with this growing sense of self-realization.
The Government of Belize should treat Mayan lands in Toledo with the same even hand that it treats Mennonite lands in the Cayo District. The Mennonites are entitled under law to a royalty on any petroleum extracted from the lands they occupy. The Maya should have the same, and even more.
Belize is divided into six districts, and Toledo is one of the largest, with the most natural resources. The Government of Belize could easily allocate a sixth part of its projected oil revenue from Toledo – that would be about 16 percent– to development works in Toledo — schools and polytechnics, scholarships for her young people, roads and bridges- to end poverty and breathe new life into Toledo.
There is a project Toledans have been developing for at least a decade– the Village Guesthouse Eco-trail Programme. The goal of this programme is to unite the diverse villages of the district under a standardized, tourism-based structure based on communal land ownership and benefit- sharing.
This is a programme developed for the villages by the villagers. It is an ambitious programme for which they are prepared to work. It is a good programme and it ought to be implemented.
Toledo is the only district that has shown this enterprising spirit, and we should be happy to assist them. After all, if Toledo prospers, Belize will prosper as well. If Toledo remains poor and marginalized, she will never find the resources to help herself to combat problems like forestry pillaging and border infiltrations.
As democracy in Belize continues to evolve, the realization is growing day by day that community effort is often worth more than government efforts to bring about wholesome social change. Community efforts define who we are, even more definitively than government efforts.