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Jun 30, 2009

Minister says land does not belong to Hand in Hand

Story PictureBut back on the domestic front, Land is an important but scare commodity in the Jewel. The growth of Belize City has left few areas available for housing, development or for sale. And a couple acres of land behind a school in Boots Crescent has the Catholic Church, Hand in Hand Ministries, St. John Vianney and the Port Loyola area representative at odds. News Five Jose Sanchez spoke to Minister of Works Anthony “Boots” Martinez to find out who has rights to the property in dispute.

Jose Sanchez, Reporting
An eighty five by two hundred feet parcel of land behind St John Vianney has become a bone of contention for Minister of Works, Anthony Boots Martinez. Martinez says that plans are on the drawing board to construct six houses for residents of Queens Square Division. But the land is being claimed by Hand in Hand Ministries who says the Catholic Church handed over the land to them. Martinez disputes that claim.

Anthony “Boots” Martinez, Minister of Works
“In 1992 government reached a negotiation with the Catholic school to reclaim four acres of land of which two acres will go to the school and two acres the Roman Catholic School will give up to the government.”

Jose Sanchez
“The development that is going to occur out here is what?”

Anthony “Boots” Martinez
“It’s six lots for building a home for people in the Queens Square area.”

Jose Sanchez
“What is the issue going on with the building of these lots? I already see some construction happening.”

Anthony “Boots” Martinez
“Government surveyed the lots and Hand in Hand claimed they had some agreement in regards to the school. But legally this land, as I understand it, does not belong to the school. Government is to be issued two acres of this lot.”

Boots provided a copy of the 1992 document sent to the Catholic Church from the then Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Natural Resources showing the a sketch of the five acres of land. It states implicitly that “the government of Belize would keep two acres and the church the other two acres of reclaimed land.”

Jose Sanchez
“You surveyed the land and there is some construction. Is that your construction?”

Anthony “Boots” Martinez
“The government surveyed the land and Hand in Hands came and they just root up the survey pegs and put the fence line along there. This is there doing until finally City Council came out there and stopped them because they had no authority to—they didn’t submit a plan for a fence.”

Jose Sanchez
“Have you spoken to the man Vargas from Hand in Hand?”

Anthony “Boots” Martinez
“Yes at an earlier stage about three weeks ago and he raised his concern. I told him that the land belongs to government and we’re looking into it. He says a lease was given to them from the Catholic school and government right in the start knew that there was an agreement between the school and the government.”

Jose Sanchez
“Who from the church gave back the land to the government? Who was there at that meeting?”

Anthony “Boots” Martinez
“I give you a copy of the minutes of the meeting and you can read it and see that it was agreed to unanimous by at the time Mr. Derrick Wright who is the bishop now.”

Section Five states that “Reverend D. Wright is to be written to confirming the decision made.” Boots claims that the school illegally extended its original boundary and took more than half of the land allocated to the government when they consequently erected a concrete fence enclosing the additional area. He says that land will be left with the church.

Anthony “Boots” Martinez
“I almost sure that the six houses will make it on this piece of land. I think that in good faith probably maybe the church can look at the other remaining acre and change and probably see if they can fit Hand in Hand into that square.”

Reporting for News Five, Jose Sanchez.

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