More Tomorrow villagers will keep some disputed land
On Tuesday night, we showed you the plot of land under dispute in the western village of More Tomorrow. The issue is one that dates back to 1998 when the land was acquired by government for agricultural development under the then U.D.P. administration of Manuel Esquivel. The acquisition was published in the gazette and two thousand five hundred acres was secured. But, since then the village has been fighting to secure the last one thousand acres after a foreign developer laid claim to seven hundred acres of that amount. Villagers say that after the land was acquired by government, its previous owner sold the land to this new developer. The farmers of the village say that they want what is rightfully theirs, the entire one thousand acres. But Prime Minister Dean Barrow says that while arrangements are being made to rectify this land battle, he doesn’t believe all these demands will be satisfied. Andrea Polanco reports.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
Residents in More Tomorrow Village continue to be up in arms over a parcel of land that the government had given them to develop. Michael Flowers says that many farmers will be displaced.
Michael Flowers, Resident, More Tomorrow
“We are talking about, the Government; More Tomorrow had been promised three thousand five hundred acres of land from the Government. More Tomorrow received five hundred acres so far. There is one thousand acres of land pending. This is the portion of land that is in dispute at this moment.”
“Now how many farmers; residents of More Tomorrow own portions of that land?”
“I would estimate between thirty and fifty farmers.”
“Now, from what I understand it’s only about seven or eight of them who will be able to get back?”
“That’s the last position that the Lands Commissioner was relaying to us, which is a shocker to us because about two months ago, in the presence of the Minister himself, Minister Vega, we might not be able to give you the thousand but we might be able to give you a certain block which encompasses the entire area that’s being developed by the farmers or most of the areas because there are farmers who have been farming out of that block.”
And that acreage is a few hundred short of a thousand which the farmers are expecting:
“That block consists of seven hundred and one acres; with two hundred and ninety nine acres pending. Those farmers who are out of that boundary say they are not going to move because the original agreement is for us to get our thousand acres. Even Mr. Vallejos and the area representative at that time, six months ago, came and told the entire village and villagers that those land you’re on, it’s for you, they are yours and you’re going to receive permission to survey and receive your title for it. Just about six months in December of last year, that’s what we expect; we expect to get our thousand acres of land and nothing less. It is not something that we just went and squat on or start chopping and developing a piece, no, it did not happen that way.”
As a resident and farmer with property at stake in More Tomorrow, Flowers says that this land issue can spiral into a more serious issue if it isn’t addressed:
“It will if the government doesn’t intervenes and deal with it fairly and justly. This is simply because Mr. Martin has already started bulldozing down the land and the villagers have no intentions for him to continue and they are going to stop him one way or the other and we don’t want that to happen.”
And it might not happen, as Flowers was informed that a decision had been made but the details are to follow in the upcoming days. Prime Minister Dean Barrow commented on the issue:
“Government is prepared to acquire so much as seven hundred acres owned by I understand, an Indian national by which the More Tomorrow villagers are located. The details are going to be trick to work out because there appears to be some discrepancy between the two sides; that is, the owner of the land is saying that the extent of the acreage on which the villagers are located is so much and the villagers are saying it is so much more. This survey will be done using some people in Panama, the GIS survey, so that we can have some extent really of what has been cultivated and follow up by going on the ground. They want that by going on the ground to be accompanied by elders or leaders of the village. They want to have a meeting before hand to explain that while the idea is to satisfy everybody who is cultivating on a parcel in that area, you might not end up getting the parcel on which your cultivation is presently based; we will have to compensate you in the event you have to move but the land owner will have to be left with a sufficient acreage that is contiguous so that he can develop his place. So there’s going to be some bumps along the way.”
“Now, as a resident of the area and you have of course, property at stake; you guys would hope that you guys would be given back the one thousand acres?
“Yes, that is our goal. Our goal is to get what we deserved; what was promised; what we are entitled to; our thousand acres. That’s all we want, we don’t want anything less or anything more.”
Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.