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Nov 22, 2016

Trio Villagers Wiped Out by Arson Re-Build; Police May Have Breakthrough in Case

This morning, a contingent of villagers from Trio in the Toledo District tried to get an audience with Prime Minister Dean Barrow, but this is Cabinet Tuesday so he was not available. It concerns a suspicious fire five days ago, which destroyed four houses, with another demolished by hand, in the village. The Prime Minister’s office had received a letter from the village outlining the land dispute over fifteen thousand acres outside the village, between the Chinese land-owner and on seven families which squatted on a small portion of it. With no response to the letter, the villagers tried to follow up with today’s visit. C.E.O. Audrey Wallace met with the group and took notes, promising to pass their concerns on to the national leader. Meanwhile, Police in the Belize District are said to be questioning one person suspected of involvement in the alleged arson. That person is said to be providing critical information to advance the investigation. Police lips were zipped in both the City precincts and Independence as to whether the law is closing in on the four men in a grey Mahindra pick-up truck. who reportedly acted on behalf of the Chinese landowner. But life goes on, as correspondent Aaron Humes found when he visited the village today.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Off the beaten path of the Southern Highway or even the partially rehabilitated main road leading into this enclave of mostly Hispanic residents, a muddy, grassy, treacherous but navigable trail leads us to the disputed property on which once sat the homes of seven families, spread out among the trees behind a private quarry where Government is obtaining material to build a nearby road.

Last week Thursday, the lives of these and other residents of the village of Trio in the Toledo District were turned upside down, when all they had worked for was destroyed by a fire believed to have been deliberately set with the clear message to get out. For now, they have heeded, even as they gathered this morning in neighboring Bella Vista to tell their story to the Human Services Department. Trio village chairman Santos Clavel told us that only now have the fire victims even been able to find a place to lay their heads since last Thursday’s events.

 

Santos Clavel

Santos Clavel, Chairman, Trio Village [Translated]

Nobody was helping them during those days.  As far as I know because I was in Bella Vista on that day that it happened. Right now no one is helping them. They are just assisting those who need help.  Some of them are staying with some family members and others at friends’ homes.”

 

We saw first-hand the destruction caused in the name of a Chinese national who wants these persons gone post-haste. Only gray ashes and the burned-out husks of what made these tiny houses home remain, and in one instance, an abandoned truck. That truck belongs to Orlando Chan, who has told local media that after so long working and living on the land, they have nowhere else to go.

 

Orlando Chan, Arson Victim

“We have been there since the eighties, and for a fact what was burnt is our property; we built it with our very own hands. So this is not whether the land is ours or not; we have been there over the past thirty years.”

 

Chan has also complained that police seem to be dragging their feet on the investigation:

 

Orlando Chan

Orlando Chan

“I went there to [Independence Police Station] to give a statement, and first, after I was asked by one of the officers if I brought papers, proving that I own [the land], I was informed that there is somebody inside giving a statement and it will take an hour and a half. By the time I went to do some chores at my office and came back, there was no sign of the officer or the vehicle that he uses, so I gather he was out of office.”

 

We were assured by those victims we met in Bella Vista that they could positively identify the alleged arsonists when and if police catch them.

According to the village chairman, the victims are not about to leave the land they have called home for thirty years – at least, not without some kind of compensation from the Government or the Chinese landowner.

 

Santos Clavel [Translated]

“People knew for a long time that those lands belonged to other people. The people tried reaching out to the government in order to solve this land problem. The people who were working the land were trying to dialogue with the government and the Asian man because they are farmers who had been there for over thirty years. They were hoping that one day the government would give them a piece of the land.”

 

From Trio village, Toledo District, Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

To tide them over, the victims have received clothing from Humana People to People store in Bella Vista.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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