Maya communities prepare for face off with US Capital

By Benjamin Flowers Staff Reporter

The Sarstoon Temash Institute of Indigenous Management filed an injunction this week for the Supreme Court to stop Cabinet from renewing or extending any permission to US Capital Energy to drill in the Sarstoon Temash National Park.
SATIIM filed for the injunction on Monday in response to Cabinet’s April 8th decision to extend US Capital’s license which expires on April 30.
“It was important for us to take this matter to court because the Maya have three Supreme Court rulings in our favour and the government still steps over our rights,” said Greg Choc, the executive director of SATIIM on Tuesday.
According to SATIIM, if the government does not respect its wishes, the people will take matters into their own hands by physically blocking US Capital from entering Maya communal lands.
Choc explained that the Maya communities are frustrated that US Capital and the government continue to ignore their human rights which have been continually affirmed by the courts . They feel that there is no other recourse.
Attorney General Hon. Wilfred Elrington told the media this week that his understanding of the judgment is that it does not apply to the current agreement between US Capital and GOB.
Elrington explained that the ruling, which requires GOB and US Capital to obtain “free prior and informed consent” from the Maya communities, will only apply to future agreements, and since the extension was granted on an existing agreement instead of a new one, GOB is within its legal right.
SATIIM has garnered support from several other groups such as the Maya Leader’s Alliance and the Belize Coalition to Save Our Natural Heritage.
The Coalition issued a release on Tuesday endorsing SATIIM’s move to get an injunction and condemning GOB for extending US Capital’s agreement without first getting free prior and informed consent from the Maya community.
On April 3, Justice Michelle Arana, ruled in favour of SATIIM that GOB’s decision to allow US Capital Energy to drill for oil in the Sarstoon Temash National Park was irrational.
She also ruled that it was in “breach of the legitimate expectation of the indigenous Maya Peoples, that the Government of Belize would comply with their obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to respect the rights of Indigenous Maya Peoples to their lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.”

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