BGYEA plans national protest over unfair land distribution

In the past few weeks, we’ve told you about the unions’ problems with GOB regarding their salary increase and subsequent demonstration, the UBFSA’s problem with the Board of trustees and Government’s lack of response and possible demonstration scheduled for Thursday , and now we’ll tell you about  BGYEA plans for a national protest over unfair land distribution. The Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA), has been actively campaigning for empowerment through land distribution as emphasized by its signature project, the Mile 41 George Price Highway “Harmonyville” community. Along the way they have encountered many difficulties, especially with the Lands Department and Ministry of Natural Resources. Today, the frustrated group was joined by other activists in Belize City where they announced a national protest on the subject of land distribution. BGYEA president Nigel Petillo gives details on when and where the protest will be held.

Nigel Petillo – BGYEA president:
vlcsnap-2013-02-12-19h01m30s88We decided that we will be holding a national demonstration, where every single individual is invited, especially Belizeans, February 26th at the National Assembly in Belmopan, right out at the Market Square.  We’re inviting all Belizeans to come out, especially the communities who have been having trouble with Lands Department, for example Burrell Boom, Crooked Tree, More Tomorrow.  More Tomorrow village we hear about for decades. Shame on the Government again.  Shame on the all Administration who been in place, had this problem, and still can’t solve the problem. But because they’re a bunch of poor people at More Tomorrow, you are of no interest to the politicians. We encourage you to come out, February 26th, that’s a Tuesday, when they’ll be having Cabinet, so that we can register our discontent and put together recommendations that we believe could make the services at the Lands Department better to the Belizean people.

Petillo outlines the reasons why the protest will be held and gives his outline of recommendations to remedy the state of affairs.

Nigel Petillo – BGYEA president:
BGYEA and its partners have even gone a step further in putting together 3 basic recommendations that will definitely ensure a smooth transaction at Lands Department, or even easier access for the grass roots and poor Belizeans of this country, to acquire lands and its services. We strongly recommend that they put in place a transparent and accountable Land Management System, that can be easily accessed by the public. Implement a first time land ownership programme that will encourage young Belizean adults to own land in Belize. And number 3 –  Create an incentive package to encourage Belizeans farmers to acquire large parcels of agricultural land, to help stimulate the economy.

All are invited to that demonstration which will be held in the City of Belmopan.  Nigel Petillo told PLUS News today that after all their investment and development, just five persons have progressed to title ownership of their properties at Harmonyville, with many more still at the lease stage. But a series of unfortunate events in the last few months has BGYEA questioning the motives of Minister Gaspar Vega. Petillo speaks of what has recently transpired.

Nigel Petillo – BGYEA president:
They decided to send us about a hundred documents last week Friday.  Those documents were completed.  It consisted of members of phase one, phase two, phase three, phase four, and some from phase five and six. So those are some of the documents that were missing, including some from phase five and six. It is still not satisfactory level to us.  I believe that because they know of our intentions to launch this national demonstration, to get Belizeans involved and aware of the day to day position that not only us, we here at Harmonyville, but every individual at this head table, and you yourselves have been going through for decades, at the Lands Department.  

Petillo added that because of the Ministry’s system failure his people have been unable to follow through with the process:

Nigel Petillo – BGYEA president:
Up to today we still cannot make our payments, as we would want to make our payments. Yes, I can say, based on the facts, about 5 BGYEA who have gotten land at Harmonyville will have received their titles already, only five, and most people are still trying to make their payments. So we definately need the Govermnment and the people at Ministry of Lands Department to give us a well in tune lengthy explanation of why it is that way.

Petillo addressed two other issues of interest to BGYEA: the excessive $1,000 per acre price for land at Harmonyville and the apparent apathy of area representatives for the effort. Here are those comments.

We definately want to challenge that price now.  We will be demanding, we the people of this country, the voters of this country, will be demanding that the Cabinet meet, and go back over the prices. We’re hoping that they could put together an incentive package, where encourage Belizean to come in the huge track of agricultural land, because many foreigners with money come ina this country and own thousands of acres of land, and doing agricultural exploitation and things.  Why you don’t encourage we? Why we can’t access their land as Belizeans, to be producers of agriculture, and leaders for our community. So, we definitely want to ask the Cabinet to revisit that price that they gave us for a thousand dollars, because we have on record where Minister Vega, today’s Minister, and even previous Ministers of different administrations as well, have issued land for as low as a dollar an acre.

A special membership meeting has been announced for February 17 at Harmonyville starting at 10 a.m.

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