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Oct 12, 2011

Landowners say Belizean American claims ownership

There is a land dispute raging in village of Crooked Tree that can turn ugly.  A huge parcel of land under development for decades is being claimed by a Belizean American. While residents say the woman claims she will not take their homes, she wants to take back a sizeable acreage of their properties. The land was parceled off years ago and the individual owners contend they have titles. News Five’s Andrea Polanco reports.

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Tonight residents of Crooked Tree Village are up in arms over a land dispute that is threatening their livelihoods. The area in question boasts approximately one thousand acres, and for the last fifty-odd years the residents have developed this land, as individual property owners. Well, that is until a few days ago when a Belizean American woman claimed that she is the rightful owner:

Marlon Longsworth Sr

Marlon Longsworth Sr., Resident of Crooked Tree Village

“Basically ma’am what’s happening is that we’ve had Miss Rose Kelly stating that she owns a thousand acres of land that was given to her mother in 1940. Now the problem is that everybody have their house and lot on these lands with papers—surveyed, cleaned and everything. So we’re trying to figure out how come all of a sudden she owns this lands and she is saying she has the documents of it.”

Andrea Polanco

“So her relatives own this land. How did it get into the hands of the residents of Crooked Tree?”

Marlon Longsworth Sr.

“Well the government bought it and because of taxes and stuff owned because at first it encompassed a thousand acres. If you think about it, a thousand acres is pretty much the whole ah Crooked Tree.”

Some three days ago workers crossed this adjoining fence into the property of Laura Salas. Work men wasted no time in cutting down trees to clear the land:

Laura Salas, Resident of Crooked Tree

Laura Salas

“These fruit trees, my dad plants them and this is where my family get its income from. That over there is my dad’s fence. Miss Rose Kelly came over with her workmen and cut down these fruit trees that my family makes income from in my property.”

Andrea Polanco

“So Ms. Salas I understand that she is claiming this land, but this land has been in your family for many years now.”

Laura Salas

“For many years. I was born in 1984 and from then since my dad told me that this place was covered in lone logwood trees when his dad gave him and he took that on his own and he started cleaning the land and from then on he developed the land.”

Andrea Polanco

“So right now you are in possession of the property papers for this plot of land?”

Laura Salas

“Yes ma’am, lot number eighty that belongs to me. I am in control of it right now as the eldest child of my parents.”

Andrea Polanco

“So what is it that you’d like to see at this moment?”

Laura Salas

“Well I’d like the lands department in Belmopan and in Belize do something about the situation because myself and my family and the whole entire neighborhood we’re really upset about this situation.”

Andrea Polanco

“So if Miss Kelly should acquire this land, then that will leave you guys with nowhere to go?”

Laura Salas

“Nowhere to go. And my dad’s home, where my mom is as a widower and my brother and sisters are there and my dad worked so hard as a fisherman, built his home and then somebody will come out of nowhere and want to claim. I am not going to stand down for that; I am going to stand up as a family member.”

But work was halted on Salas’ property after the community called on the Lands Department. But for Longsworth, there is need for concern because he says the residents have their land titles. But another resident is also claiming title:

Marlon Longsworth Sr.

“We had some assistance this morning, but now we are trying to figure out where do we go from here because this si really ridiculous for somebody to have our land documents stated she owns it.”

Andrea Polanco

“So when she approached the residents of Crooked Tree, she brought along her documents and you have your documents as well?”

Marlon Longsworth Sr.

“To my understanding what happened is on Sunday she just went and told the little kid that they are going to start to clean on Monday. She just said that she’d started to clean. She had some documents—Monday when I went to the shop, she had an amount of documents and the same plan that we have here stating that she owns this land, that land—basically a thousand acres ma’am if you think about it is a real big size. So it is not just this area that we are talking about—maybe the residents may not realize her intentions but we are trying to stop her before she continues.”

Andrea Polanco

“So from what you’ve seen, the documents are they official from the Ministry of lands?”

Marlon Longsworth Sr.

“It is from the Ministry of lands.”

Andrea Polanco

“Signed?”

Marlon Longsworth Sr.

“Signed; she has it signed. So we are trying to figure out whether the papers that we have before, are they good then? And we have them a long time.”

Two other residents say they have developed their land for decades and not only isn’t it unfair, but also illegal to take away their birthright.

Elizabeth Wallace

Elizabeth Wallace, Resident of Crooked Tree

“It’s affecting me a lot because it belonged to my father and before he died he willed the land to my two brothers—one has died and one is still alive; he lives in Florida—and this woman comes from America and she starts claiming land and now she says that she is going to take a portion from behind this house to past my father’s grave and she is going to take the rest to make resorts. She cannot do that. It’s not hers. I was born here, my sister, my brother, everyone one of my mother’s children were born here. I don’t understand what she is trying to get by. It takes money to clean this place—it wasn’t like this, all these fruit trees my parents planted. It was all bush when my father bought it. I don’t know how much he paid for it but he got title.”

Verla Jex

Verla Jex, Resident of Crooked Tree

“She is saying that she has the papers for the entire property from that wire to that wire including the home. And then she is saying with all the other properties that she is not interested in the house, but she is going to take a portion of the property. But my thing is that if we allow her to encroach on the property and take up a piece of the property then she has the papers—she even has the papers for the house she claims. So if she comes in say to that tree over there that she says she is interested in and we allow her to come in, then maybe in another two months she will want to come in some more. So that’s why we have applied for the lease for this land. And like I said I don’t want any confusion, but this is where I have been living for the past twenty-five years and there is no way that this belongs to Ms. Rose Kelly.”

Chairman of Crooked Tree says that the village council was never informed:

George Guess

George Guess, Chairman, Crooked Tree Village Council

“Lands Department should be ashamed of themselves for even thinking that they can do that. It states in the village council act that lands department should consult with the Village’s lands and lots committee. If they can’t consult with the lands and lots committee, why have the village council act?”

The residents of Crooked Tree say they have been told that they need to go to Belmopan as a group to see the Minister of Natural Resources. Reporting for News Five, I am Andrea Polanco.

News Five was informed that Rose Kelly left the village a few minutes prior to the arrival of our news team. We will have the follow up with the Lands Department in Thursday’s night’s newscast.

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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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10 Responses for “Landowners say Belizean American claims ownership”

  1. Mylegacyb4mypeople says:

    Land disputes will go on in Belize forever if the government does not get on an ambitious plan using the GPS system in identifying each and every parcel of land in Belize, each parcel of land needs to have a unique identifying number so that these parcels can be identified and not being sold or leased by the GOB when they are already owned by someone else another big problem in Belize is that there are too many parcels of un-utilized property in Belize claiming to have ownership why would anyone need to have a thousand acres of land just sitting there doing nothing when many people cannot even get a single acre, I say it is just plain greed the government should step in and reclaim and compensate for these under utilized property and then redistribute them to those who have nothing no one should be allowed to own that much property unless they are farming the entire thing and truly producing something beneficial to the community, property is wealth and when these huge parcels are being distributed to a single individual it creates great disparity between the have’s and the have not’s which results in a country with major poverty, there is nothing wrong with having large parcels of land but make sure that you can manage it and make it productive in order for it to be able to sustain human needs a parcel of land sitting idle has no value to anyone. Remember My Legacy B 4 My People.

  2. Lindsay Howard says:

    Sounds like clear cases of adverse possession depending on how long the people occupying the land have been there. They certainly satisfy all the other requirements of adverse possession.

  3. Justice says:

    The case as stated above about the land is sad but the lady who is claiming to own the land does own it! The womans mother did origionally leave her a thousand acres but she has never made hassel over that. The land being spoken for is the land her grandparents origionally lived on and was for her mother. In this day and age whats on paper in black and white is what matters so I guess we will see if the government of Belize is wrong, the residents or the woman! Sad to see Belizeans quarreling over these things and just because you go to the states and then come back home I do not think should make you any less of a Belizean!

  4. Georgie says:

    @ my legacy4mypeople, I agree with some of what you say, but in all honesty lets be real, with a Government like we have, won’t taking away land that is unutilize, to share among other make us a socialist country. Would you like somebody to take away your land? If this person inherit this much land and has not utilize it is her business what she does and do not do with it.

  5. Belizean says:

    true but was she paying taxes to the gov of belize? she surely was to the US gov, and lots of it. So if she wasnt paying her dues, then the belizeans who gave back to belize by building it and producing on its land should have the last say. Aint got nothing against US Belizeans just that fair is fair and these peoples livelihoods are at stake, the law should protect the majority and not just one.

  6. Marve says:

    Just ask Mrs. Rose Kelly to pay the back taxes on the land. Was she paying it all these years. If not she got to cough up that back tax. How many years is that at how much per acre. Millions would not be an exaggeration. Ask her to show her receipt for her taxes. All of it. If it wasn’t paid that land was lost long ago.

  7. lisa says:

    PLEASE THE LANDS DEPARTMENT IS CORRUPTED AS THE POLICE DEPARTMENT. WITH THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF MONEY, YOU CAN OWN SOMEBODY’S LAND. THEY NEED TO INVESTIGATE THE PEOPLE AT LANDS.

  8. simone pitts says:

    I find it interesting that my mother (Rose) is being tried and judged via the news. My grandmother (born and rasied in Belize) worked very hard to aquire the land in question. She decided that the one thing she could leave her children and grandchildren would be property. The fact that she did this for her family is something that I as her grand daughter will be ever greatful for. My mother, who is also a native of Belize has decided to go back home to retire and get what my grandmother inteded us to have. Who is to say that my mom is wrong for doing this?
    I also think that the Government should have a better system for surveying and assessing the land that is bought and sold in Belize. It’s very obvious that something went wrong here. If more than one person can produce documents showing that they own the same piece of property then the ball was dropped! Where, I don’t know but it neds to be corrected. It’s very sad and wrong to see people judging my mother withouth knowing all the facts. Instead of fighting my mother, one would think that they would pull together and question how and why this happened?

    The other thing I find quite funny is the fact that she is now a “Belizean American”. Just because at some point in her adult life she decided to move to the states to further her education and raise a family does not make her any less a Belizean than the one’s that have chose to live in Belize. My mother has always taken pride in where she came from and has made sure that our family represent Belize in all aspects of our life. How sad to know that Belizeans can not come together and stand with one another to make sure things are corrected and history will not repeat itself.

    I pray God finds a way for all parties involved to come to a peaceful resolution. My mother’s intent was not to remove anyone from their homes, or spitefully see someone lose what they believe to be their own. She decided to get what my grandmother intended for her famiy to have and keep for generations to come. The law is not protecting just one, but the law on the other hand might realize that they made a mistake and sold something that was not available to be sold!!!!

    It’s easy to judge when you are not the one in the situation. But, if the tables were turned, would you walk away from your inheritence or would you fight for what rightfully belongs to you.

    Thank you to my grandmother for having a vision and working as hard as she did to leave us something that we will eventually call home, even if I am a “Belizean American”.

    God Bless to my mother Rose and everyone involved in this mess…God still has a way of making a way.

  9. simone pitts says:

    I happen to be the daughter of Rose and find it very sad that this situation has come to this. My grandmother who was born and raised in Belize worked very hard to make sure she left something for her family. The fact that my grandmother had the vision and the desire to not leave this earth without giving us an inheritence is something that I will forever be greatful for. I find it interesting that my mom is now being called a “Belizean American”! Just because she left Belize to further her education and raise a family does not make her any less a Belizean that the other. What the question should be is how and why other people might be able to produce paperwork showing ownership for the same piece of land???? I think the Government in Belize should have a better way of surveying and assessing property bought and sold in Belize.

    Instead of the people coming against her via the news and gossip, they might want to consider standing together in a united front to try and get to the root of the problem. If that is not done, history has a way of repeating itself. My mom was not the person who bought or sold the land to them, she is just the person that has decided to go home and claim something that was righfully left for her family. If your mother, father, or grandparents left something for you would you walk away from it, or would you stand up and fight for it???!!! I also want to let it be known that my mom had NO intention of moving people out of their homes or spitefully seeing people hurt behind this situation. If anything, we are just as surprised as anyone else to know that something like this has happened and the ball was dropped somewhere.

    Maybe you should realize that this situation is bigger than my mom and the people in the village. All parties involved are at risk of losing something. I believe God can fix all things, and I pray he makes a way where there might not seem to be one.

    I am grateful for my grandmother and even more thankful that my mom is fighting for the inheritence of our family. It’s so easy to judge her and make your comments, but put yourself in her shoes for just one minute and tell me what you would do?

    God Bless

  10. simone pitts says:

    As the daughter of Rose Kelly, I would like to take the opportunity to voice my opinion on this situation. My grandmother who was born and raised in Belize left this land for our family. It was her dream and desire to have her children, grand children and generations thereafter to all live together in Belize at some point in our lives. My mother, who some are now calling “Belizean American”, was if some don’t know born in Belize. As an adult, she made a choice to move to the states in order to further her education, and raise her family. Because of this decision, why should she be considered any less of a Belizean than anyone else from Belize?

    The fact of the matter is that obviously someone made a mistake and dropped the ball! If the Government of Belize does not have a better way to survey and assess all property bought and sold in Belize, it does not make this my mothers fault. She unfortunately is being dealt the hand that was given and so are the other people of the village. My mother had no intention of removing anyone from their home or taking away what some might consider to be their land. Who would have thought that more than one person would produce a legitimate document showing ownership for the same piece of property?

    If your mother, father, or grandparents left you an inheritance of property woud you not fight for it? If so, why should she be faulted for trying to get what my grandmother rightfully purchased for our family? Stop judging my mother and consider that she is not the one that created this horrible ordeal. Is it also possible that the people of the village could have come together with my mother to fight this in a united alliance? Being ignorant as a people only leads us to repeat history.

    It is very sad to see something that my grandmother intended as a gift of love for her family, has now turned to people cussing out my mom, and making her out to be this “American” that has decided to move to Belize and take land from the people. Shame on those who have judged her without knowing the facts!!!!

    Much love to my grandmother for leaving her family something to be proud of and more love to my mom for fighting to keep it!!!

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