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Dec 1, 2014

Harmonyville Parties Ordered Back into Mediation

Supporters and members of BGYEA assembled this morning at the Supreme Court for the umpteenth time for the case of Harmonyville against the Government of Belize. Harmonyville representatives have been back and forth in court fighting to use a road reserve to plant corn, but the area has been off limits to them. Twice before, the court has ordered mediation to settle the dispute, but that has not taken place until now. Today, Justice Courtney Abel expressed his dissatisfaction in the way things have turned out and ordered both parties back into mediation. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was also back in court this morning and has a report.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Contention over the proposed use of a road reserve along the George Price Highway adjacent to Harmonyville persists in the Supreme Court, where mediation between BGYEA and the Government of Belize was ordered several months ago.  Both parties were back before Justice Courtney Abel this morning, following a recent collapse in negotiation.

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Attorney for BGYEA

“In July, a mediation was ordered [but] it was never carried through.  Third of November, again mediation was ordered.  There was, I would say, administrative setbacks not on the part of BGYEA.  That order was never filed and so it was never complied with [and] the deadline was Friday gone.  There’s a lot of mix up that went on and definitely not on the part of BGYEA and their representative and so we had to come back to court today and tell the court where we are.  And of course the court was disappointed I mean two orders on mediation.”

 

While the matter remains before the court, the once clean and manicured acreage has reportedly become overgrown.

 

Nigel Petillo

Nigel Petillo, President, BGYEA

“When yo di pass di highway right now, compared to the time when we had invested and cleaned that land, go look pan da land right now and sih how ih look.  It’s discouraging, ih mek you as wahn Belizean di pass dis area, this community and ask da weh di go ahn ya so?  Leaving it in its natural state no di work.  We’re hoping that we could establish wahn grounds where dehn wahn undastand why we wanted to utilize that land.  What all that land could do for our community.  Again, the responsibility of roads it’s the government’s responsibility actually.  We decide we can’t wait pan di government fu deal with it so we came up with innovative initiatives and ideas to get it done and to find ourselves in this situation.”

 

The irony, seemingly, is that while government has gone to great lengths to bar the use of the buffer zone, others who are not residents of Harmonyville are said to be squatting within the reserve.

 

Alan Garnett

Alan Garnett, Harmonyville Resident

“Di buffer zone di affect me right now due to weh di government dehn noh wahn we clean di buffer.  People di cohn and interfere with my place and noh only wid my place but with other neighbors as well.  Di grass di grow five, six feet, nobody di maintain it.  I noh know if I shoulda maintain di buffer because ih deh directly in front ah my property or if I shoulda wait until dehn do something.  Di government noh look like dehn wahn do anything fu help we alleviate this problem because we need fi have infrastructure, we need fi sih di place develop mein.  Dis da ova eight hundred families wih di talk bout, no only people, families weh dehn deprive from start to do something or develop, have something ah dehn own.”

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“My clients they are frustrated because time is just stretching out, stretching out.  For them the reality is that they live on the land, many of them live on the land and while the matter is in court the grass is literally growing and you’ve heard what has been one of the challenges with Mr. Garnett.  And so he is only one expressing that challenge.  There are others expressing a similar challenge.”

 

David Barnett

David Barnett, Executive, BGYEA

“BGYEA has not committed no crime.  We actually mi di play by fi dehn rules.  Now dis da weh di, you know weh ah mean.  We need di country fi notice what di go on ya when dehn people try do good.”

 

Government has since retained the services of Barrow & Williams Law Firm.

 

Isani Cayetano

“Has the Government of Belize offered a reason as to why it has changed its attorneys?  In this case it went from Nigel Hawke to Rodwell Williams from Barrow & Williams Law Firm.”

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“No. The government has not given us a reason why they changed attorney.  They don’t have to give us a reason why they changed attorney.  Mr. Hawke still sits in for the attorney general’s ministry.  What you the people and the reporters need to go find out is how much more it is costing this government because Rodwell Williams and his junior, Ms. Ellis who came today I am sure are not cheap.”

 

Both parties have once again agreed to mediation and will return to court on February second, 2015. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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