Land ownership in Belize has been the subject of many disputes and we have presented our share of stories along this line brought forward by concerned citizens or people who simply have become fed up with the porous system in the lands department. Tonight we have yet another of these stories but this time around, the contention surrounds what should be public property. It concerns the East Sports Centre located on Aurora Street in Orange Walk East. The matter was brought up to us by members of the East Sports Centre Committee and other sports enthusiasts. They say that for unknown reasons they have been unable to obtain the lease papers for the centre and consequently have had to halt infrastructural development and even sports events at the plot of land. We take a look at this story in two segments, since to get a better understanding of the situation; we need to look at the history of the East Sports Centre and eventually what has led to the group’s discontent. Dalila Ical reports.

 

Screen_Shot_2014-01-21_at_8.39.10_PMDalila Ical– Reporting

 

Today, the East Sports Centre on Aurora Street is not in the best conditions to say the least. Overgrown weeds and grass have taken over the sides of the court, the chain link fence, and electricity wires that hang over the area.  Garbage has begun collecting in the corners of the sports facility.

 

It’s an eyesore but what is of interest is that only about nine months ago, the centre was well kept and maintained by the East Sports Centre Committee that formed a few years back and had begun infrastructural improvements at the centre. The committee was formed by sports aficionado Orlando Burns. Ladrick Shepard, a popular sports enthusiast in town was among the men who founded the committee.

 

Ladrick Shepard– Member of the East Sports Center Committee


“He invited us at his house, he invited Berti Pascal, Gian Vasquez, he invited maestro Peralta also Ivan Leiva was over there, Marc Vasquez was over there as well, I think Mr. Burns was over there as well, John Pollard was over there as well, these are the people that came together and we decided that we will push forward so that we can have a formal committee so we how we can manage the east sports centre.”

 

That committee had invested some eighty thousand dollars in improvement at the facility. So what happened? The committee seized all its work because they lacked the proper land documents to the parcel of land that would allow them to apply for funds. The curb the situation, the committee sought to obtain the lease. Burns says that he began his research with members of a previous committee that held a lease for the land for some fifteen years.

 

Orlando Burns– Sports Enthusiast


“One was Mr. Rick Cantun, may he rest in peace, he was a sport enthusiast and he was involved in that committee and I understand the other one was Mr. Herman Meza, past Mayor of this Town, and I think the Honourable Elodio Aragon was one of the other members those were the last three people supposed they leased, but I can only tell you what I was told because I had asked them to help me with the documents at least the old lease.”

 

To date, over three years since the committee was formed, the land documents have been hard to come by, according to Burns.

 

Orlando Burns– Sports Enthusiast


“There is no documentation because the one that was held by Mr. Aragon, he personally told me it has expired, never showed me the paperwork because he said he couldn’t find it but he assured me that it has expired, he said Landy you want to fix that place it would be good for the people, for the youths and he gave me his full support and I went ahead working with his word an then I approached the minister and he gave me his full support as a matter of fact I will show you the pictures when we did the inauguration of that 88 odd thousand dollars investment, it was the minister of lands who was out there inaugurating it with us.”

 

Burns says despite the lack of paper work, they tried their luck and obtained funding from the Belize Energy Trust Fund with the promise of providing the proper paper work in the near future.

 

Orlando Burns– Sports Enthusiast


“I am a member of the BNE trust, I have a judiciary duty to produce these paper works to my board, they are still waiting for these papers, I told them that the things was a public property and that the paper work was in process that they were going to put the name in the new committee.”

 

Dalila ical– Reporter

 

“So now this is where the whole contention in this one situation comes along, who owns it and where is the paper work?”

 

Orlando Burns– Sports Enthusiast

 

“I cannot tell you for sure who owns it because I have not seen any paper work, not the old one not the new one, not the one that was promised nothing, just word of mouth and I heard that I saw that everything was being delayed and I spoke to the Minister Mr. Vega and the first thing he told me was that he was in full support and that he will give the place to a new committee and that I could go ahead and work confidently and that’s what we did.”

 

Burns adds that he has been assured that such a lease existed and if it did, the question then is what has been the delay in obtaining it or even seeing it?

 

Screen_Shot_2014-01-21_at_8.38.58_PMOrlando Burns– Sports Enthusiast


“That’s the million dollar question that we don’t have any answers to, we have been told and just like it is a rumour that there is private citizen trying to get it for private use and I heard about it and I was so shocked that I took it up to the Prime Minister privately and I told him look I am here working for the public and people are here trying to undermine you behind your back and he said no, no, no he will have nothing of it and I had that confidence that once he was not supporting it that the papers would be forthcoming but they have not and everybody is discourage, the committee is discourage and we don’t know if we go there if somebody is going to tell us we are trespassing we don’t know.”

 

Dalila Ical – Reporter

 

“When did the Minister of Natural Resources say that he would also produce this document?”

 

Orlando Burns– Sports Enthusiast

 

“Well, he told me he was definitely was going to give it to the committee, I would say about three, four months ago the last contact with him.”

 

Dalila Ical– Reporter

 

“You’re mentioning that you’ve been hearing rumours that somebody is applying for the land for a private property, do you have names and are you willing to mention the names?”

 

Orlando Burns– Sports Enthusiast

 

“I am not going to mention any names because I haven’t seen anything in black and white but people have the idea who that person is and I am going to leave it to you.”

 

The situation is of much concern to the committee, according to Burns and Shepard, especially when they saw the potential their initiative had and the interest it was garnering from youth in town.

 

Orlando Burns– Sports Enthusiast


“If we had produced those documents by now we probably would have gotten some more finances to do a roof so that we could have all weather sporting complex and I know that is needed in Orange Walk because it is the only basketball court beside the complex which is which is down town.”

 

We attempted to find out for ourselves if the document does exist and if the land is registered. We understand that the parcel of land is number 2-2-1-4, block 4-1-0-2. The latter part of the number is the identification for the Orange Walk registration section in the Lands Registry. We made calls to the Registry to inquire about the parcel of land but we were referred to lands Commissioner Wilber Vallejo who we were told was in a meeting all evening.

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