There seems to be an increase in public demonstrations at Independence Hall and today one such demonstration was staged there. Two groups of villagers from Stann Creek West held posters demanding their rights be respected and demanding that the government settle matters that have been affecting the communities of Santa Cruz and Silk Grass for quite some time. The leaders of both communities say that the land in their villages is being mismanaged and that the authority of the council is being undermined. Reynelio Lobos is the Chairman of Santa Cruz Village in Stann Creek West and explains their contention with government.
Reynelio Lobos – Chairman, Santa Cruz Village
“Nosotros estamos tratando de venir en paz y democráticamente como siempre todas las comunidades venimos y el problema es que Melvin Hulse está dando órdenes como Mr. Pandy que es el representante de terrenos entonces están midiendo los lotes para vender por acres mientras nosotros hay más personas necesitadas que están alquilando entonces nosotros queremos que el gobierno no los haga de esta forma sufriendo porque nosotros estamos representando y ellos tienen un representante que no ganaron que ellos se han tomado la ley de Santa Cruz y la verdad que a nosotros no respectan ni nos toman en cuenta, el concilio exactamente. Asi que hoy estamos aqui para tener reconcimiento, exacto.”
In addition to this, the villagers explained that they have also been facing several problems with their water system.
“No Quieren hacer eso, no quieren entregar ningún dato de las finanzas de Water Board ni nada, no sabemos lo que es poner un bloque en el pueblo y no sabemos a dónde va todo eso y no dan ningún reporte a las personas ni nada, y eso es lo que queremos que por favor el Primer Ministro tome en cuenta todo eso, no tenemos agua hasta en la noche y todo esto es lo que no tiene aquí protestando por los derechos.”
Solomon Andrews is the Chairman of Silk Grass Village who also explains that residents are concerned their land lease may be cancelled. He says that in 2008 over 160 lots were distributed in that village.
Solomon Andrews – Chairman, Silk Grass
“The grace period is near I about five months away for the lease to get expired and so that is a concern for my villagers them that land could get cancelled because they can’t go in and pay for their lease. Majority of it is already developed but some people don’t want to build because they are scared because they are just turning them back from the Lands Department. I think they should listen to the people because these people are legal, the lands get surveyed legal and they got their documents and they should listen to the people of Belize I think they should.”
Area Representative for the constituency Rodwell Ferguson brought the matter up in the House meeting today to explain why the villagers traveled to Belmopan today to register their conerns.
“One hundred and sixty one lots were issued to the residents of Silk Grass and low and behold the election came I think in February or March of 2008 and I lost my election and so I had no connection to go and check and make sure that everything was done as planned so when the leases were issued there was no authenticated plan all what the plan needed was the signature of the minister of natural resources, the signature of the commissioner and tht signature of the principal surveyor, so these leases were issued and from then until now those residents are trying to go into the lands department and pay their yearly rental fee.”
According to Ferguson, the problems continued to as recent as one month ago claiming that a government minister is subdividing land that was not meant for house lots.
“Mr. Hulse about a month apparently got a survey from the ministry of lands to survey all the open areas in the village into lots, so what will happen with the playground of the children, Santa Cruz right now have about four hundred kids going to school and they are going to school in San Roman, Santa Rosa and all the way to Mayan Centre and so he wanted to now survey the land that they have set aside for a school in the future into lots, so when I went to see the Commissioner of Lands, he told me, even before I open my mouth, he said Mr. Ferguson I want you to know that this is a simple issue and it will be resolve and I will suspend the survey now, so when the village council went back to the village they saw the surveyor working and they went to the surveyor and said we just came from the Commissioner of Lands and this is what he had told us, the surveyor said so I no get nothing at all from the Commissioner so I may proceed, apparently the following day the Commissioner called him and he halted.”
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