Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Development and area representative for Lake Independence Hon. Mark King has been caught in the middle of a maelstrom concerning the ongoing squatters’ camps in western Lake Independence division, at the Chetumal Street/Lake I Boulevard project site. On Tuesday we brought you the concerns of squatters residing in the area who say they have been tricked by the Minister of State and are now sitting ducks for prospective land owners, who are coming to reclaim what they own and destroy what little the squatters have built. King today says that while this has the smell of party politics, he must honor his pledges to the affected residents. He directly addresses Bernarda Rivera Cordova, the main speaker in Tuesday’s story, and her alleged ties to his rival Cordel Hyde.
“This girl Cardova, I cast her as a PUP operative. She’s been seen with Cordel Hyde several times. I insist that she’s endangering the community by putting fear into the community simply because I haven’t issued any eviction order as yet. I also think that this a staged political operation because I have said nothing to nobody in terms of issuing out any land in this area as yet for the same reason. Going back to the map, I don’t have the presently authenticated map. I will some what say again, that I will have to be kind to these people, I will have to address the human right because they are naturalise Belizeans, some of them. But, you see Jules these people are taking me to court, these people say I lied on the media. These people are misdirecting the public in everything right now. You know what is stopping me – people are texting me to send the immigration, half of them you know aren’t Belizean. So send in immigration, to send in the GSU, the powers that is mighty invested in me as a minister. Boy, I could go out there like Dracula but I’m saying no, no way. Some of these people are naturalise Belizeans – a few of them and I will treat them kindly, I will treat them fairly but they will come to the government and make demands. The fact that they are naturalized Belizeans, they will respect the laws of our country. “
According to King, while he has issued stop orders in the area pending the resolution of the land situation, and he has signed a few recommendations subject to that resolution, he has not issued any leases or titles in that area. The map that Rivera Cordova speaks of is not the latest authenticated version, and he explains why.
“It only makes sense that I tell these people to move out of area because we don’t know how much of the land will be available for projects and how much will be available for Government use to give to Lake I people. There are three authentications that have been done now with the map, up to the recent authentications we did simply because if you go into the area, from the Holy Emanuel side, if you look at the left and side, you will see structures being damaged or broken down where nobody lives. Simply because had issue stop orders in that area . We are bringing back the project line into the area for the area to be planed. We have big international projects coming to Lake I. The CDB Resource Center which is millions of dollars that will bring jobs and opportunities for each and every person living in Lake I . We cannot allow a few people to stop the benefit of many people, and Belizeans that have lived in Lake I for quite some time.”
King says that depending on where the project line ends, the remaining lands will be made available for Lake Independence residents who have been waiting a long time. The squatters will receive lands of their own with title but will not be catered to to stay where they are. King refutes allegations that alleged cronies and other intimates will be the main beneficiaries of the lands.
Hon. Mark King
“GOB and the Lands Department, we just think squatting illegal, we put it out there, we are not moving back on that. No country you can go, you can’t even build a little shack in Chetumal, you can’t park the bus much less take a piece of their land. Boss they will lock you up, they will send you back to your country, they will charge you and we are not doing that. We are helping these squatters because as naturalized Belizeans, we think that they deserve to be treated with human rights. While they can’t have their own way, we are certainly not expecting that they are going to dictate to the Government what the law is, what the Constitution is, what the Government policies are. I cant do that boss. If I do that, how will all the Belizean’s in Lake I that have applied for land at my office and at the Lands Department who are waiting for years and can’t get a piece of land. What gives them the right for me to give them this land over my people, my naturally born Belizeans that have applied for land for years.”
According to King more than $50 million has been placed in the area, about $19 million for the Chetumal Street Bridge and adjoining boulevard works, and another $30 million is planned for the various Government projects which include the new basketball stadium, international bus terminal, National Bank office and CDB-funded resources center. Giving into the squatters, he said, would not only reinforce the suggestion that squatting is OK, but would also stop progress on these projects. Nontheless, he says, he intends to thread the needle and find a solution that benefits all.