PlusTv visited the beautiful village of Hopkins last Friday where the village council and concerned villagers gathered to share with us several issues they are having with Central Government. These issues include the redefining of the village boundaries as well the manner in which valuable land in the garifuna community is being distributed. Felix Miranda, Secretary of the Lawanserun Yuganda Corporation told Plus News, that there is growing discontent in the community regarding how the indigenous Garifuna community is being treated.
“What we want and what we are demanding from government is to go back to our traditional way of allocating lands and shearing lands with the residents of Ugada Hopkins. Most of the people in Hopkins want the traditional way of governing. They want to be self antonymous,, they want to be self governing and as far as we are concerned, the less government involvement in our affairs is, the better it is for our community because we know best what’s good for our comminute not the government. We tell the government. The government should not impose its will on the Garifuna people in Uganda Hopkins. “
Miranda says what the community wants is autonomy to govern its affairs, especially as it relates to traditional Garifuna lands; including the restoration of their Alcalde System.
“Traditionally Ugada, which is the indigenous name of Hopkins, use to be run by an Alcalde. Within the Alcalde system, all lands within Hoplkins, residential and farm lands, usually went through the Alcalde. That changed with the inset of the village council whereby government then took over the approval of land. In the Treaty of 1773, between the Garifuna nation and Great Britain, twenty- eight Garifuna chiefs were present in that meeting so that we have been self governing ever since. So, coming into Ugada Hopkins, when the Alcalde system was instituted, it was a continuation of that system. That is the reason why we want to go back into that system and work along with the village council.”
Elders in the community have been closely following the developments made in the Supreme Courts by the Mayan people. Through BENIC, the Belize National Indiginous Council, Miranda says, the Garifuna people are entitled to the same previledges as the Maya. Miranda has written a letter to the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister responsible for lands, to make this point clear.
“Whatever the Mayans are doing, the Garifuna people are following. In the sense that the court has decided in their favor, we know that that has become a precedence for the Garifuna people to follow in order to claim the same thing from government. that is exactly what Ugada Hopkins is doing. As I said in the letter, that it had come to my attention abut lands that were issued by government without the free prior and informed consent of the Garifuna people of Ugada Hopkins which is actually unlawful, according to the United Nations Declarations of the rights to indigenous people. We are telling government that they should stop doing that and lands that they have issued without our free, prior and conformed consent, they are to be returned to us either in land or payment – restitution. If that does not happen then the whole village of Ugada Hopkins will mobilize to make sure that it takes place.”
In a subsequent newscast PlusNews will inform viewers on how the Hopkins Village Council says they are being deprived of more than half of their revenue.