Villages, by law, can own about a mile out from the furthest point of the village in each direction. But what happens when two villages are exactly adjacent to each other? Two words, “land dispute.” That is the reality of two villages South East of the country. Hopkins and Sitee River are both claiming rights to the area South of Hamansi, all the way town to Sitee Point. For context we have to understand the political demography of the two villages, which are as follows: Hopkins is operated by a PUP village council while Sitee River is operated by a UDP village council. One of the key points surrounding the dispute is who collects moneys for the liquor license. Plus News spoke to Wayne Casimiro, the Chairman of the Hopkins village council who gave us their side of t he story.
“They are collecting liquor license south of Hamanasi going all the way to the marina. It has been an issue that we had discussed after taking office in 2013 but we never came up to an agreement as to what was going to happen. We were claiming that area since we consider it to be the coastal community of Hopkins and Sitee River was also calming it. We had one meeting with the late Mr. Frenko, he was the rural development officer for the Stann Creek district. We sat down with a council and Sitee River Village council. We had discussions with regards to where this will go. At the end of that discussion, there was no agreement mad. We left, unfortunately Mr. Cowo passed away, may he rest in peace, but after that everything was shut down and there was no communication with regards to what was going to happen in that area.”
The matter was never settled, according the chairman of Hopkins but as early last two weeks he claims the Chairman of Sitee is going around coercing the different business owners to change their signs from Hopkins to Sitee River.
“Just in this week, we have had another incident that is becoming a concern because I think we are really moving into a situation where we need to definitely get this matter settled. There is a business on the southern end that has opened and it is advertising itself as a part of Hopkins and we were the ones who gave them permission and letters for establishment for liquor license and now the chairman from Sitee River is claiming that there is a speed bump there and they want the speed bump removed. The negation tool that he used was to change his sign from Hopkins to say Sitee RIver, he could ;leave his bump there and if he does not, then he has to remove his sign. That’s not the way to operate and I do not see it as fair to anybody. When they do any business, they come to us for any recommendations with regards to sales – licenses and so on, they come to us. I could go back in history, Jaguar Reef and those businesses on that side, all the consultations came with Hopkins Village Council. Thiose of the thing sthat we can say and cliam that everything on that side of Hopkins is Hokins. They came to us.
On the other hand, Sittee River claims they have been collecting the revenue from liquor license from businesses in that area from day one. The chairman of the Sitee River would not grant us an interview but he did speak to us candidly off record. According to the chairman of Sittee River Darren Ramirez they supply water to that area so there is no way Hopkins owns it. The only problem he says they are having is that business owners who are registered under Sittee River are advertising themselves as Hopkins because of the Market in the name. He told us that about 75% of residents and business in the area South of Hamansi are registered under Sitee while the other 25% are registered under Hopkins. We have since sent an email to the Ministry of local Government to clear out these inconsistencies are waiting for a positive response.