As they promised earlier this month, the Government of Belize has renewed proceedings against the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA) over the Harmonyville Agricultural Project at Mile 41, George Price Highway.
It has put in a fixed date claim form alleging trespass by BGYEA, its president Nigel Petillo, and former co-investor Sam Patten among other things, as described by BGYEA’s attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd.
“The Government has sought three main things: A declaration that they are the owner of the land, that they call the Buffer Zone; A declaration that my clients don’t have a right to be on said land; and also they’re bringing a case of trespass. They’re saying that Mr Petillo and Mr Sam Patton trespassed on the land. I wonder if it is that they see Mr Petillo trespass or through BGYEA, and it is an association which in law has its own provisions whether they can be sued or a person. So it will be interesting what the legal arguments will be. So that’s what the Government is seeking. Now our part is to show that those declarations that the Government are seeking are not right, should not be granted, and also to dismiss this issue over trespass. I am here to support my clients, and go through all the details as to all evidence we have, that we need to contribute to the first part, so we know when to proceed.”
Attorney Matura-Shepherd says her clients maintain that they are in control and possession of the land.
“My instruction from my clients from the start is that they lawfully acquired and paid for the survey of that entire land, to form a community called Harmonyville. So we had to start from there. We need to see what evidence the Government has to say that they are not entitled, and to see what evidence our clients have to show that they are entitled. Also, one of the things that we’re looking at is what would be our claim against Government as well, because this thing right now is one sided. We’re dealing with a case against my clients, but they also have certain assertions they’re making. So we’re at that part where we’re discussing how we’re going to proceed.”
BGYEA president Nigel Petillo says the Government did not waste any time pressing their case, but he believes it will come to naught.
“By Friday night, the same night the injunction was struck down, they had another injunction they wanted to issue. Finally they had issued that to our lawyer, Miss Audrey. We want people to understand the importance and the reason for us planting corn. The idea is to build our community. We see that piece of land as a piece of land that could be utilized for the betterment of our community. For our Government to be treating us this way, when we drive around other parts of this country and other parts of the highway, seeing the very thing that we are trying to do being done right now, you question the intent behind it.”
Nigel Petillo maintains that they want to do things the right way and responsibly, and says that once they succeed as he believes they will, they will not only be planting corn, but doing other things as well.
“Personally, I feel confident about this. I believe that when this is all over and done with, and we are given the full rightful possession of our land, then we’ll be able to plant as much corn as we want, and whatever is after that. Again, I want to repeat to the Belizean public and our members especially, that the idea here is to build our roads and build our community. The Government has said to us over and over, they don’t intend to do infrastructure for us, or anything. And so we came up with ideas to do for ourselves. They’re fighting us because we’re thinking of doing [things] for ourselves.”