Back in February, the government of Belize and the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association, headed by President Nigel Petillo, reached agreement by mediation on a majority of issues concerning their case in the Supreme Court. The government had sued to stop the implementation of a planned project in the buffer zone or road reserve running adjacent to the community at mile 41 on the George Price Highway contending that it did not and would not give permission for such activity. The government exercises control over the reserve as Crown Land and has undertaken to keep the zone clean on a three times per year basis. In exchange the government will assist BGYEA with acquiring technical advice for the planting of crops in the reserve zone located within the agricultural sub-division, about 60 acres, where land owners of Harmonyville will plant agricultural products for harvest and sale. The proposals for settlement have been converted into an order of the court to which both parties are bound. After the final session before Justice Courtney Abel of the Supreme Court, we spoke to BGYEA vice-president David Barnett, standing in for the absent Nigel Petillo, who says they have made their point.
“Again, everything that has been taking place in Harmoneyville is from the people of Harmoneyville itself. We raise our own money to do whatever has been taking place out there. Nobody ever came to say, ‘we are sorry for those Rasta or we are sorry for those people out there,’ and say they will drop a money on those people for them to move. Our thing has always been to get the crowd together and try to raise funding and whatever, You can clearly see it’s a slow process sometimes. I have to tell the Belizean people that I wonder about you. What do you really want? Because, certain things get handed out to you and you just sit down, wait in a little corner and expect people to come out all the time are be ready to defend your cause. I don’t know what else to say other than the truth. We are the oppressed, we are the ones who are not getting anything, we are the ones that are always crying.”
According to Barnett, Government has been slow to live up to its promises thus far, but BGYEA is and remains a people’s initiative.
In terms of planting out the buffer, we got permission to plant out sixty acres of land which is more towards the back. It’s plain to see that right now you have to be very careful what you say. Anything you say right now is so unpredictable in how they will take it. How these lawyers use their terminology, how they manipulate the system. We are regular grassroots people here to defend the poor, the oppressed, those who never had. That’s what BGYEA did. We formed Harmonyville…we managed to give out one thousand and forty plus acres of land. The government says they will clean the buffer now, they will take that as their initiative, and that’s all we really wanted. Corn was never really a cash crop in my view. I would have never tell my community to go and plant an acre of corn each. If you would plant an acre of corn, that would never take care of your family. The whole idea of planting corn was to maintain a cleanliness of the buffer. If they will clean it, we have no problem with that. ”
The points of the mediation are now contained in a court order which will attract sanctions if breached.