Wasn’t me? Denny Grijalva passes blame on Noh Mul destruction
Denny Grijalva, the politically connected Orange Walk businessman in the very hot center of what has become worldwide condemnation of the destruction of Noh Mul, has been missing in action since Sunday. News Five attempted to contact him with no success, and we were told he was in Guatemala City and that he arrived back in the country today. And sure enough, late this evening, Grijalva sent out a release. In that release he neatly extricates himself from the issue, claiming that the foreman of his company, De’ Mar’s, identified material for the rehabilitation of roads in Douglas, but the Chairman of that village was not satisfied with the material. And as such, he obtained permission from a landowner to extract material from his property from which material has excavated for well over a decade. Grijalva claims that excavation began on Thursday and continued on Friday, when it was stopped by officials from NICH. Grijalva ends with his release by sharing the public’s concern over this, quote, ‘unfortunate incident.’ And he asserts that he is also launching an internal investigation. We note that at no time does Grijalva make any reference to Noh Mul or indeed to any Mayan monument. We also note that he does not take any responsibility, but shares it between his foreman, the Chairman of Douglas Village and the private landowner. Mike Rudon was at the site today and has the story.
Mike Rudon, Reporting
Commissioner of Archaeology Dr. Jaime Awe had seen the damage to Noh Mul only in pictures taken by his directors late last week. Today, he visited the area for the first time since Thursday and his dismay was palpable as he examined what is left of the structure which stood as the tallest monument on this large site.
“Looking at the images before on the photographs that our two senior archeologists had sent to me and said to me was one thing. And now seeing it first hand, like you said in 3D, is just gut-wrenching. It is obvious as you look at the stratigraphy there you can see that this was a big temple that was built stone by stone; that was carved out by the Maya from their own quarries in the past. Obviously that this was a prehistoric building. I think I have said before that it was a sad day for me and for Belize when we found out that this destruction had occurred.”
His worst fears were realized, if there was ever any thought to reconstructing the monument.
Dr. Jaime Awe
“If the question is whether we had any hope to reconstruct—cause that is all you can do here—what this building would have looked like, I can categorically answer that with a no. When I looked at it just now, it reminded me of the coring of an apple. When you core an apple, you cut out all the outside and what you are left at the end with is a core. So you have no idea of what the apple used to look like on the outside. So that’s that situation we have here. Can we come and do some excavations and still gather some data that would tell us the construction sequence of this building, the answer is yes. We can probably still come back and do that.”
News syndicates from across the world have joined in condemnation of those responsible for the destruction, as have the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and local organizations. Even Minister of Natural Resources Gaspar Vega has added his voice to the fray, pointing out that Grijalva did not have a permit to mine. While there is still uncertainty about the extent of punishment to fit the crime, Awe admits that the NICH Act is to an extent an antiquity, but they are serious about taking this issue as far as it can go.
“With me today, are detectives from the Orange Walk Branch of the Police Department as well as one of the police men. The officer in charge will be joining us later. The plan of action now is that we will prepare the necessary documents that then the police can submit and use to lay charges against those that are responsible for this destruction. I got a copy of the press release that was sent by Minister Vega and I noticed, like you pointed out, in the release it stated that Mister Grijalva did not have a mining permit to do mining on this location. And like I said, I am hoping in discussions with them that perhaps they can also look at the possibility of laying charges under their legislation. In terms of us at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, we can apply the NICH Act for the destruction. So all these things…like I said, we are doing our investigation. We can assure you that within our ministry and, like I said too as the Ministry of Natural Resources has indicated, government at the Cabinet level has decided that we need to take action on this.”
Awe and his team plan to finish their assessment and to give the Police an official report by the end of this week. After that it is anybody’s guess how things will play out. Denny Grijalva, the man who stands to face the brunt of any prosecution, is a very well-connected member of the United Democratic Party. He has not been heard from since the destruction. Mike Rudon for News Five.