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Nov 26, 1999

U.D.P. protesters say basketball court will destroy graves

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Because they believe that a number of graves at the historic Yarborough Cemetery will be affected by the construction of a new basketball court, some people from the Albert Division today picked up their markers and Bristol boards and staged a protest. They say they were never properly informed about the project. Area Representative Mark Espat says the area’s development plan, announced months ago, is no secret. He insists it poses no threat to Belize’s cultural heritage since the cemetery is located across from Wesley College, not in the area under construction. News Five was on the scene this morning.

Nellie Arnold, Protester

“I am born British Honduran. Why I am out here is because my great grandfather, Peter Parks, is buried in this Yarborough burial ground and I don’t think that these people, that are taking away our country, have any right.”

Freddie Mae Tillett, Protester

“I’m talking about over two hundred years of family history is right here and they’re wiping that out cause they don’t know how it came about. Cause a lot of them are new Belizeans and if you are new Belizeans that does not mean you will disrespect old Belizeans.”

Area Representative Mark Espat says he doesn’t intend to disrespect anyone with the development project that includes building fourteen homes, creating a park and improving sporting facilities in the area. He says the plan was announced months ago and there was no adverse reaction.

Mark Espat, Area Representative, Albert

“It is generous to refer to that as a picketing as someone did, it’s a rent a crowd situation.

We have consulted extensively with the residents of the area, with the Department of Archaeology, with the Belize City Council, with the Ministry of Works.”

Sydney Fuller, Organizer, Protest

“We saw a plan earlier on and we sort of protested on it but no consultation was done between the area representative and the people of the Albert Division.”

Resident

“We signed to make them build the basketball court up there. Now they no come and ask we nothing; they just come and put this there like that so. Then they say they come to the people. I no see they come to my house yet and most of the days I am home.”

Mark Espat

“We feel very confident that this project is transparent. The plans have been on display for the last five months and we invite any feedback, from residents, from the Opposition and from any other organization.”

Sydney Fuller

“I have no problem in infrastructure development, housing programs even sporting facilities, no problem, but we should do it in the proper manner and fashion. Don’t come and destroy a cemetery when the people are telling you not to do it.”

Espat admits that two graves will be relocated. He says, however, that a representative from the Department of Archaeology is on the site full time to monitor the project.

Sydney Fuller says the protest was organized only this morning and because it was a working day, only a few residents could participate.

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