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Oct 9, 2014

Ministry of Lands Silent on Unitedville Dispute

Prime Minister Dean Barrow has gone on the record to state that the Ministry of Natural Resources is a hotbed of corruption. He probably could have gone further to call it a hotbed of incompetence as well. News Five has been covering a land dispute in Unitedville in the Cayo District since early May. When the story first broke, both the Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega and the Commissioner of Lands Wilbert Vallejos vowed to resolve the dispute. Commissioner Vallejos has since stated on the record that the dispute has been resolved. But five months after, it hasn’t, and nobody from the Ministry of Lands is saying a word. Mike Rudon was in Unitedville this week and has that story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Let’s keep this story simple, because it is. In 1992 G.O.B. acquired a piece of land in Unitedville for a water reservoir for the community. That was built and life went on. Some years after, 2010 to be exact, Beverly Fischer, who claimed to be the person entitled to get compensation for the acquired land, wrote G.O.B. demanding it. That led to this – a transfer document signed by Minister of Lands Gaspar Vega, granting Fischer title to parcel 2690 in Unitedville as compensation. The only thing is that parcel 2690, approximately five acres, was already surveyed and occupied, even before 2000. That’s the story we broke in May – as persons occupying the five acres raised hell because Fischer was telling them they had to leave.

 

Wilbert Vallejos

Our story caught the attention of the officials at Lands, and on May nineteenth there was comment from Commissioner Wilbert Vallejos.

 

Wilbert Vallejos, Commissioner of Lands [File: May 19th, 2014]

“I met with the residents this morning and they really were satisfied at the end of the meeting. In essence what we decided is that the government will help them retain the land that has been developed by them. This was a gross mistake or negligence on behalf of the department—there’s no other way to put it. An officer or officers not doing their due diligence and ensuring that the land that was offered as compensation to the estate of Dorothy Bell was in fact occupied by some people. We didn’t pay her money you know, we gave her land. So she is amicable in getting land somewhere else.”

 

But that wasn’t exactly true. News Five has gotten copies of vouchers paid to Bernadette Fischer in 2011. On May twenty-sixth, she received five thousand dollars as part payment towards land acquisition. On June fourteenth, Fischer received thirty thousand as part payment towards land acquisition, and on July eighteenth, Fischer received twenty-five thousand as final payment for land acquisition – a total of sixty thousand dollars.

 

Now fast forward to August twentieth, 2014.

 

Wilbert Vallejos [File: August 20th, 2014]

“We’ve met with the villagers in Unitedville. We’ve met with the landowner and we’ve reached to a compromise. We’ve agreed on something.”

 

And then fast-forward to today. Sutton has received an eviction notice from Bernadette Fischer which gave her until September twelfth to leave. She didn’t, but says that Fischer is now trying other ways to get her off.

 

Anna Marie Williams Sutton

Anna Marie Williams Sutton, Concerned Leaseholder

“They had promised to clear it up. The Lands Commissioner told all of us that this is supposed to be cleared up. We don’t have to worry about moving. But yet this young lady is going to Electricity Board trying to get my light turned off because I’m living on her piece of land she claims…she went to the Water Board claiming that I’m living on her piece of land. Now she’s gone to the Liquor board Chairman telling them that she wants my license revoked, and the Liquor Board Chairman told me yesterday that if we don’t settle this matter, January I won’t be able to renew my liquor license, so I don’t know. I’ve had my Vietnam license for going on twenty years.”

 

According to Sutton, she and other residents have tried without success to reach Commissioner of Lands Wilbert Vallejos. We know the feeling. The one time I did get him to respond to a text on Wednesday, he refused to comment on this particular matter.

 

Anna Marie Williams Sutton

“Everybody is facing eviction but these people are more on me, on me I don’t know why. They are stressing me out. This young lady Ms. Fischer is stressing me out right. And my next move is that I am going to get an attorney and I am going to sue for stress because I can’t take it anymore. I’m tired.”

 

Sutton and the other residents don’t know what will happen next. They don’t know if they will be forced to leave. They don’t know the status of their parcels of land. And right now, there is nobody in the Ministry of Lands who is willing to provide any answers, or comfort. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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1 Response for “Ministry of Lands Silent on Unitedville Dispute”

  1. reatph says:

    what is a “Vietnam license”?

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