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Feb 26, 2013

Belizeans protesting for land; BGYEA on the Hill

An orderly and peaceful demonstration over a huge problem took place in Belmopan this morning. It was organized by the grassroots organization called BGYEA which for years has been agitating for titles for land at Harmonyville, a community on the George Price Highway.  Frustration at not being able to get their stake in the jewel, while a privileged few amass fortunes worth of land, led the group to the capital. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Public frustration over unjust land distribution across the country brought a number of protestors out to Belmopan this morning.  Leading the charge was activist, Nigel Petillo.  The demonstration, organized by the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association, saw a conservative gathering of about a hundred and fifty men and women marching on Independence Hill.  After a brief roll call of all supporters present, Petillo addressed the crowd.

 

Nigel Petillo, Founder, BGYEA

Nigel Petillo

“Today is a very historic day for the people, for the grassroots people especially, of this country.  The ordinary, ‘normal’ Belizeans are here.  The Belizeans who don’t have access to your signature.  The Belizeans who every time wi go dah di ministry, “Oh di minista noh deh ya.  Wi lost yo file.  Oh wi neva get di paypa.  Oh somebody else get di land.  Oh wi sell yo land by mistake.  Oh yo name noh eena di system.”  The C.E.O. believes that she is the minister, to even the secretary is too busy for us today.”

 

If those excuses seem all too familiar it is because they have somehow become the norm at the Lands Department.  According to many, including Noel Avila, land ownership is not only difficult; it is also an inequitable process.

 

Noel Avila

Noel Avila, Protestor

“I think that this is a start because people need to hear how people are feeling out here.  I mean the grassroots people need certain things, I mean a land document is very important.  It gives people the leverage to get loans to do certain things.  It’s collateral and people use that for certain things and if you don’t have that then you really don’t have anything.  And you find all sorts of little things happening in the Lands Department and [uhm] that needs to be addressed.”

 

At the helm is BGYEA.  A candid advocate for land reform, Petillo believes that by sending a loud signal to the present government, whose mandate was built on transparency and accountability, change will be effected.

 

Nigel Petillo

“The reason we are here today is because we want to register our frustration.  We noh deh ya fi waste time, fi model, fi mek unu watch pan fu we ugly face.  We noh pet nor powda.  We are here to send a unified message.”

 

But whether that message is being heard at the administrative level is arguable.  The sentiment across political lines is that there has been, for too long, a systematic failure in the process of land distribution.

 

Isani Cayetano

“Do you believe that the people who are supposed to be taking notice of what is happening here are willing to do something about it?”

 

Emilio Zabaneh

Emilio Zabaneh, Protestor

“Well if they don’t they should because I can tell you I represent a lot of people that wanted to be here but people can’t just come.  It’s expensive to move and people have their ordinary lives to live, you know.  They say, “plantain noh di eat like rice” or something like that, you know.  So it’s hard out there.  Then I just don’t like when I see it on the news all the time that people just, what they deserve, their birthright, a piece of land, you know, is just hard to get.  And then when you end up in the government’s Lands Department where now it’s like almost legitimized, legitimate where you work with an agent who can get it done for you and it’s going to cost you so much.  Those things are wrong, I don’t agree with that none at all.”

 

In the face of it all is another, more recent public outrage over real estate sold to friends and family of the Minister of Natural Resources within an area of the Placencia Lagoon currently under consideration for national protection.  Once again it echoes a general feeling that there should be openness and responsibility in the process.

 

Dale Smith, Protestor

“Well ih simple yoh know, transparency and accountability.  Ah bring mi big son wid me mek ih get wah sense a weh di go on, yoh know.  And wi want just, proper distribution ah land, that’s all, simple.”

 

Isani Cayetano

Dale Smith

“Are you a present landowner?  Are you applying for a piece of land either for yourself or for your son?”

 

Dale Smith

“Bwai well, di piece ah land weh I deh pan right now in process and, you know, the usual but, you know, ah have kids and ah just cyant just, you know, satisfy with just one piece a land because da noh one kid ah have, you know.  So you know, I gotta do what I gotta do as a father, you know.  Yeah.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“And you feel as though the ministry, the government in power is dragging its feet in terms of changing certain things within the process that would afford you to be able to get a piece of land [in a] timely [fashion]?”

 

Dale Smith

“Yes mein, da like wid everything else, you know, dehn just, instead ah touch di real stain eena di shirt dehn just run round it and you know, like mek yo feel disrespected, you know.  [Dehn] talk to yoh and tell yoh things but da just fi brush yo off fi di moment while nothing noh di get forward eena office, you know.”

 

And while the handful of protestors may have circled an empty Assembly Building in disapproval of the status quo at the Lands Department they are hoping that their unified message, nonetheless, reaches the ears of those in office. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

 

There is more on what is considered unjust land distribution practices coming up later in the 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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14 Responses for “Belizeans protesting for land; BGYEA on the Hill”

  1. Retired CEO says:

    People come together, get ready a there is a train a coming. Power to the people!

  2. jeebo says:

    Great concept to get something for nothing. How about this? BUY YOUR LAND!!!!!

  3. Southern says:

    The lands department, damn inefficient. And they are busy doing what? sitting there doing nothing. Saw many people working there, don;t know how things aren;t getting done.

  4. Big Fan says:

    Hey Jeebo, see what you saying, but with a country with 33% (approximately) below the poverty line AND SO MANY UMEMPLOYED, WHO COULD AFFORD IT, this situation caused by the SAME GREEDY POLITICIANS who ‘are not normal’ – let us not forget that one and those who establish many DUMB legislations making persons and the country poorer instead of exploiting the Mining and Manufacturing potential of this Jewel. When persons are Fed Up of corrupt individuals; allegations and facts then they feel helpless…….what is the played out cliche that we use – “THE POWER IS IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE” SO WHEN THEY [PEOPLE] REALIZE IT AND ACT, let us not be hypocrites and NOW tell them otherwise – POWER TO THE PEOPLE !!!!!!!!!!!!!
    NEXT UP CHANGING THIS DUMB, OUTDATED, NONSENSICAL AND DID I FORGET TO MENTION USELESS SYSTEM OF GOVERNNANCE, called ‘constitutional monarchy’ to a REPUBICAN SYSTEM USEFUL AND NATIVE TO BELIZE TO FURTHER DEFINE OUR INDEPENDENCE and charter our future

  5. Ricky Malthus says:

    Petillo and Saldivar stole that land from a China man who is reported to be in a foreign jail. But this man has other heirs and assignees to care for his land. So why was this theft necessary? Justice be done, people of Belize. Petillo got involved because the Paisas were living on this land for years and because of his racist jealousy , started this terrible travesty to deny the immigrants further inroads in our agriculture. Don’t believe it ? Investigate and interview Belizeans in the know!!

  6. ABC says:

    People at the lands department do not sit and do nothing, they keep looking around in their system to see which land they can take from people and give it to their families and friends or sell it.. The Padrons and others own so many land all over the place which they don’t even pay land tax on and additionally when they cant pay it, their accounts can be cleared so it seems like they paid.

  7. Skinny P says:

    Fake rastas. Get a job. So bugus, they want you to think its for poor belizians but petillo and petts work with black chiny to offer harmonyville lots to rich international reggae superstars as down payment for concerts. These are squatters with Dreads not rastas…. far from rasta. Jah Jah strike dem down.

  8. subKonshus says:

    Ricky Maltus you may neither be poor nor black, maybe you are a Paisa… but definetly you are an intellectual idiot to put it midly. Nigel brought up convincing arguments to the GOB as to why the land should be acquired and redistributed to deserving Belizeans. So its the GOB that “stole” the land from the Chiny man if you want to put it in that context. So what if the land was stolen? Its about high time that poor black people of this country be let in on deals and niceties of our natural resources. If you are into research, take some time out and go inquire how many Paisa villages became official recognized named settlements as a result of illegal squatting. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. If immigrants can come and squat on land and own it for $0 then the same opportunity should be afforded to born Belizeans. If Petts is racist, so what. But your problem is not that Petts is racist or that he is making inroads for the grassroots people. Its because he is big black hairy dreadlock who is penetrating this capitalist system and exposing their wickedness of which you are benefiting from. Now go roll that up in a big tuboom boom and smoke that!!!

  9. Seletar says:

    This case raises some tough points. To a great extent land has been distributed unequally and, more important, unjustly in Belize since before independence. Look at the land portfolios of ministers, their friends, and families, and our “aristocracy,” and the problem is glaring.

    At the same time, it’s a fantasy that everyone can have something for nothing just by being a Belizean — not all parcels are equally valued, and there’s not enough Crown land to give a parcel free to every Belizean into the future.

    Yet it’s legitimately a Belizean dream that people one day can own a little piece of the Jewel.

    We need to face these issues and come to a consensus:

    1. Should there be a process to take back property that was illegitimately acquired as “gifts” to politicians and their cronies and kinfolk? I think so — when you steal property by acquiring wrongfully, you never get good title to it.

    2. There should be a national debate and referendum on a program to distribute other public land. Perhaps some, maybe all should become available for Belizeans TO PURCHASE on easy terms. But purchased nonetheless. Better to make payments for years and end up owning the land, instead of paying rent for the same years and coming away empty-handed. And the sale of Crown lands would put some money into the national coffers.

    Probably some Crown land should be held back for sale to businesses that need land to build factories or farms that can employ Belizeans, too.

    As to Harmonyville, Malthus has a good point — it was private land, may still be, unless the government follows a legal process to take it back. Ministers aren’t Robin Hood, they can;t just steal from the rich to give to the poor — once we let them have that power, no man’s property is safe.

    Solving these problems has always proved beyond the capabilities of our elected leaders. But it’s another issue to be addressed on a national level, such as at a convention to write a new constitution for the Jewel. The sooner, the better.

  10. Jack perez says:

    some people are talking that their land is being taken way. When the truth is that when the other administration (government) was in power, these people that are talking took land that belong to other people. Now, this government is just taking away what was not theirs’ and giving it back to the real owners. “Justice” is being made. Now they are feeling what the other people felt when their land was taken way.

  11. stopthebs says:

    JEEBO are you for real … do you live in Belize ,i assume you don’t if you follow this story correctly ,they are paying for that land they would supposedly would get. you sound like an idiot . why should the poor Belizean people pay an arm and a leg for a piece of land ,when those same !@@!@#$ ministers are giving it practically for free to their families and friend..example i put in an application for a piece of land almost 3 years now i haven’t heard !@@! yet from these SCAMP yet. so i’m sure you know how Belize government works. the bottom line is dah who you know ,so don’t talk bad about BGYEA what there are doing is great it should encourage Belizean to fight for what they want and stop taking !@@! from these shameless politician .. ..OUT WITH DAT CRAZY BALD HEAD AND HIS MERRY THIEVES……POWER TO THE PEOPLE. ……

  12. Belizean says:

    Skinny P u are as shallow and small minded as ur name. Its people like u who have this country in its current state. @ Ricky Malthus are u even a Belizean? What u should be asking is how the hell a chiney man locked up somewhere in jail owns over a thousand acres of Belizean soil. Which by the way, he planned on selling back to poor fool fool Belizeans. (smh) @ jeebo……buy land from who? The rich chiney man and other foreigners buying them out n selling them back at prices we can’t afford or the illegal immigrants who are settling all our available land? Its sad how Belizeans are so quick to fight down each other. If it were immigrants protesting for BELIZE land u would have probably been more receptive, but a black Belizean fighting for other Belizeans HELL NO!!!!! fight him down right away! sad sad sad ….. as far as the racist comments – how can the man be racist – he’s been married to a Belizean Mestizo woman for 16 years – so I guess he is racist against her too and their four kids…..please! Racism is so outdated!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Moses Sulph says:

    To those who continue to be blinded by either greed or political partisan bias, This is the reality there need to be equal opportunity for all to have access to land, the rich have the same right as the poor, then this should mean the poor is also given the same opportunity to own land as the rich man. I urge those who want to make meaningful criticism to do your research on the issues first get the facts, don’t just be malicious for the sake of being negative, Each person is paying $1000 per acre to Government, and these are mostly marginalized poor persons with ambition, yes many who are economically wealth are paying $200 per acres or even less at time for vast amount of land they are not even using for productive purposes.

    I urge all to remember we are all humans, all God children, all reacted in the likeness of the same creator, we are bonded by humanity and hence no matter the race we are all Humans, one people.. The activists who stand up for others do so because we believe that all humans should have equal opportunities to a better life, and there is no need for unnecessary suffering when there is enough resources to reduce or eliminate such suffering.

    May the God of my fathers grant us the wisdom and strength to continue being our brothers keeper even when we are faced with trial, tribulation, and unnecessary victimization.. WE SHALL OVERCOME BECAUSE HE WHO GIVES US THE HEATH TO DO WHAT WE ARE DOING IS GREATER THAN THE ARCHITECT OF HATE, GREED AND SELFISHNESS..

  14. judge says:

    Power to Nigel Petillo for organizing a peaceful event, to protest against Belize’s Biggest known crime ring ” THE GOVERNMENT”, strong movement bredda

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