Armenia Lands Commission Chairman explains land controversy

Plus TV, over the past two weeks, has been reporting on some of the challenges facing Armenia Village; one of those primary issues being land. If you’ve been following any of our recent reports on the community you’ll know that the Village of Armenia has a Lands Committee which is Chaired by Mr. Cruz Cal and 7 other villagers. Cal has been serving within his capacity as Chairperson of the Lands Committee for the past three years but now he is being accused of being involved in unfair land distribution and taking lands away from local farmers.

Cruz Cal – Chairperson Armenia Lands Committee:
vlcsnap-2013-05-07-20h18m12s67The land is owned by CAL Company, during the past many years.  But then when I took over the chairmanship of the Lands Committee, I started to work very hard to acquire these lands, where many of us were squatting, and the rest of the land that we needed to be acquired. I worked very hard with my Lots Committee, along with the Area Representative and the Government of Belize.  Then the Government acquired 1,300 acres of land in early February 2011.

Because Armenia is primarily a squatters’ community, Government has been trying to regularize the situation and they acquired the thirteen hundred acres of land in February of 2011 from the private company. This happens to be the same lands which the local farmers have been farming for the past ten to twenty years. Besides the farming, the men say that they were paying fees to the company and now they are being asked to moved. According to the Lands Chairman, that is not so.

Cruz Cal – Chairperson Armenia Lands Committee:
When the land is still under the company, many farmers were renting the land to do their farming.  it’s not only Armenia people that are renting.  Some other people from outside Armenia, people were renting the land at that time, during the company’s time. But when the Government acquired the land for the people of Armenia, we started to sub-divide the residential lots first.  First we deal with the residential lots, because that is very important because we had been squatting on the said land for many years.  From there we are moving on to the parcel of farmland.  But then removing people from the land that they are working on, that is not true. I’m not removing any persons who are living there, who have been working there, for a couple of years.  I respect people and I respect their rights, and they will continue to work on that said land. 

Mr Cal does admit though; that his committee had started to clear some of the land but it started creating problems and so they discontinued that venture and have now decided to wait on Government to bring amicable resolution to the brewing problem.

Cruz Cal – Chairperson Armenia Lands Committee:
vlcsnap-2013-05-07-20h18m18s133We went and tried to cut those lands, but then we see that it doesn’t work, because why, people started to complain because, “Oh, this is my farming area for many years and I don’t want to share with nobody,” So when I look at that I said I’d stop doing that until I get the permission from Government to put the original surveying, so that then people will respect when they will see the line and the pegs on each corner.
But for right now we are not removing [anyone] in the area.  They will be remaining in that area.

Another area of contention is that Villagers claim that Mr Cal and his Lands Committee have been granting parcels to persons whom are not residents of Armenia.

Cruz Cal – Chairperson Armenia Lands Committee:
The Committee idea is that they give the preference, the priority, to the citizens of Armenia first.  If there is any that we have left over, then maybe we would be able to help one or two, if we have any left over

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