Villagers of Blackman Eddy clear community land

vlcsnap-2013-02-28-19h08m19s34Villagers of Blackman Eddy are taking  on the task of clearing community land for themselves.  Approximately 100 residents of Blackman Eddy; some with machete in hand, have taken it upon themselves to clear 20.703 acres of land belonging to the Government. Their reason for doing so; well simply put, the residents say there are in need of land. Plus news spoke with one of the supporters behind the action; Shirley Mai White.

Shirley Mai White:
vlcsnap-2013-02-28-19h24m09s44People heard that I am running for the Chairperson in Blackman Eddy in the upcoming election. People came and asked me questions and said that they needed land. I mentioned to them that I am not in authority to give them land. There is a land at the back where I heard the Government was going to distribute to the villagers of Blackman Eddy. As you can see here, today its people from Blackman Eddy, now where else – not Unitedville, not Ontario, now where else. Just Blackman Eddy. They told me – Okay since we have been back and forth and we want the land and Government is back and forth and doesn’t want to give us the land, that they will just come in and take the land and use it as squatter’s right. So I told them that if they stand up for me, I am going to stand up for them, because I have lived in Blackman Eddy for forty two years. I have my son who came from Placencia. And he lives with my mom. He lives downstairs Of my mom’s house, because he doesn’t have a land. It’s about time that we as Belizeans stand up for our rights and that’s why we are out here today, because we are standing up for the rights of the Belizean people.

Despite agreeing with our reporter that she has no premise or authority to give out the land; she says it must be done.

JESSE MENDOZA
You have no authority to distribute land; it’s only the Government who can give such permission.

Shirley Mai White:
vlcsnap-2013-02-28-19h07m02s6I know all the laws of Belize, I study the laws and I know all the laws of Belize. I am not giving them any land. They are taking the land. I do not take them; they can go and chop here and they can go and chop there and take the land. I do not have the power to do that. So I am not giving them any land. They are the ones who are taking the land.

JESSE MENDOZA
But your support is behind them?

Shirley Mai White:
My support is behind them.

JESSE MENDOZA
But you are supporting an act that is against the law.

Shirley Mai White:
Yes I am aware of that too. I am aware of that too because the people told me this morning that if the police come and take me away, they will have to take all of us. So how can I leave my people when they tell me that?

JESSE MENDOZA
Are you trying or is this a way to gain votes for the upcoming election?

Shirley Mai White:
I don’t see it as that either. I don’t see it as that. That’s why I didn’t want to do it until after the election, because I don’t see it as that. I see it as people are tired, they are fed up and they are demanding a land as a true Belizean – that I see it as.

JESSE MENDOZA
What will happen eventually, if the Government says you cannot get this land?

Shirley Mai White:
If the government says they cannot get the land, then we will abide by that law and they will have to give us a reason why we cannot get the land, because it is all the way behind the bushes.

As we understand, the parcel of land had been previously allocated for housing expansion but nothing has come of it so far. Plus news spoke with a highly spirited Joes Arnold who told us why he came out.

Joes Arnold:
vlcsnap-2013-02-28-19h26m43s74What I am doing here is trying to get a piece of what rightfully belongs to us – something that should have been given to us a very long time ago. Over twenty seven years I have been trying and fighting to obtain a piece of land for constructive, progressive and productive work to develop myself. I am a family man, I have been begging ‘lodgen,’ renting places and I have never grown, just hand to month. Now I have taken over acres of land that belongs to other people and work these lands and produce these lands beautifully with crops that are completely not mine. I do not know if there is any type of gain in that for me. But I believe that if Belizeans were to have their own piece of property, those who have that constructive and progressive mentality, they would grow.

The actions of the villagers were alleged to have been instigated by White who is running for a slate in the Village council. We questioned Raun Gutierrez and Darwayne August if that was so.

Raun Gutierrez:
vlcsnap-2013-02-28-19h28m07s150Well I am not really supporting anyone, but it is a good move to try and take a land, because the Government seems like it doesn’t want to give us a land. So nothing is wrong for us born Belizeans to try to dictate the pace and get a piece of land in our surroundings.

Darwayne August:
I clean the land because us as youth we don’t have any land in this village. I have lived here for twenty four years and I don’t have a land. I really want a land, because a land can get me out of poverty to a certain level.

JESSE MENDOZA
So you are in support of the actions of Ms. White?

Darwayne August:
vlcsnap-2013-02-28-19h29m02s181Well I am not really supporting Ms. White; I am supporting whoever helps out the people.

And while it has all the elements of a disaster waiting to happen the villagers are not wavered. Arnold says that they will press forward.

Joes Arnold:
Take the oppression off our backs; take the aggression off our backs. We don’t want to hear about economic defaults, fix it this way – give to the Belizeans vlcsnap-2013-02-28-19h28m48s15what belongs to them. Give them the land that they may establish themselves, develop themselves and they can move along beautiful in their country and therefore they shall remember those who did what was just and right for them. Whichever Government, Ministry, Delegation, we need what belongs to us. We are not dealing with violence, we dealing with this matter in the right way of trying and we need the support of you all. Without you all, we cannot do anything, but we won’t back down. We will move forward; we are moving forward. We are taking what is rightfully ours. Please hear the cry of the people and I don’t only speak for myself, I speak on the behalf of everyone here.

Plusnews also spoke with Yolanda Molina; former chairperson for the Village. She says that she can foresee the situation getting out of control.

Yolanda Molina – Former Village Chairperson:
vlcsnap-2013-02-28-19h34m54s112I was the Chairperson from 2007 to 2010. Myself and Ms. Cynthia Gordon were the ones who inquired about the land and we decided that we would go to the Government and that it would be a housing expansion, because we have a lot of people in this village that are first time owners. They don’t have a piece of land and that was what we were looking into. Yes it is causing problem. We had a problem like this already. When it is time to give out the land, it will be hard because people will say I already chopped this piece and they won’t want that. 

Both Yolanda Molina and Shirley Mai White will be contesting for the position of Chairperson in the upcoming Village Council elections to be held in April

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