On Friday we reported on the settlement by mediation of the case of the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA) and the Government of Belize in which the Government assumes responsibility for cleaning the road reserve area adjoining the Harmonyville Agricultural Subdivision. BGYEA’s plan to use the area for quick-cash crops like corn from which the proceeds would have been put to building roads in the community was thwarted, but the Government agreed to assist the organization with its plans using reserved sections of the community.
BGYEA president Nigel Petillo has said all along that the organization had specific aims and objectives to reach and that the Government was standing in the way. With the case now concluded he offered some reflections on the struggle.
“To be honest with you I still feel as if though we are still being held back to a certain extent.
First of all this whole thing about no trespassing. You need to keep that in mind. This wasn’t about us trespassing. The government was actually looking for a way to hold back BGYEA , to halt all explorations and all our initiatives. Dragging us back and forth in court for almost a year, without actually sitting down and say let us really address the idea or the reason why you wanted to plant corn and I’ll have you know, one of the main reasons we needed to plant corn was we need roads.
We need road in Harmonyville. You can’t expect much from a community without infrastructures and so the government decided to then to negotiate with us, to say that they are willing to drop all charges if you will do this and that. It was a bogus charge, to come up with the idea of trespassing when we are actually partners with the government when it comes to managing this land. We have a stake there and to say well. Not allow us from cultivating something such as corn in this buffer space, then it says a lot.”
According to Nigel Petillo the buffer lands would have had a greater advantage for their proposed planting than the reserve lands.
“However, through the mediation process, we have agreed that the said land and we have never really disputed that, that the buffer actually belongs to the government of Belize. As a community, we were made to understand that we are managers of that land by the Commissioner of Lands and so we proceeded with our initiative, which was to cultivate the buffer zone with a 3 month crop such as corn and in return, we could have been able to maintain the buffer zone and even make extra revenues off of that to sort of develop our community and build roads. Certainly, I am happy that we got over that and it’s time for us to move on. We could have probably been on our third crop now, but they have allowed us to cultivate some 60-75 acres of public spaces that we have within Harmonyville; the cemetery, parks, playgrounds etc. and those add up 75 acres of land. So, we are preparing and getting ready to clean those lands and proceed as far as planting corn again, so that we could make this money and try build some more roads. Again, we are still in a situation where we still need assistance. We are still asking that you consider or perform your duties.”
A final consent order is being worked out and costs are likely to be settled before Supreme Court Justice Courtney Abel.