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Feb 7, 2014

Land and money; San Jose Nuevo Palmar villagers say plenty missing monies

On Thursday night, we reported about a land grab in the Orange Walk East constituency. Tonight, there is another story which also involves land and money; plenty missing monies. On Thursday, we sat with an ad-hoc group from San Jose Nuevo Palmar, which is also in Orange Walk East. To understand the magnitude of this latest scandal, the residents calmly explained the history of the village. But the real purpose of the meeting was to disclose that according to their figures, close to a million dollars in land sales that should have gone to elders and for community projects are unaccounted for. Duane Moody has that story.

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Duane Moody, Reporting

Residents of the San Jose Nuevo Palmar Village in Orange Walk led by their chairman, Orlando Balam, are up in arms over what they are calling the mismanagement of public funds. Today, villagers gathered inside the community center to report that close to three quarters of a million dollars are unaccounted for by the Lands Advisory Committee. According to residents, for over two decades, the mistrust, corruption and greed of a handful of villagers have negatively impacted the community.

 

Orlando Balam

Orlando Balam, Chairman, San Jose Nuevo Palmar

“We are tired of corruption; we are tired…all the descendants know this is happening, but we have not told them that we are tired of this.  The water chairman gave him report, but the lands committee did not and they said that there is no lands committee and they would advise us in a next date when they have formed their committee. Knowing this the villagers said, well since there is no lands committee, so let’s form a land committee by the majority of the descendants.”

 

Lorenzo Aldana, President, San Jose Nuevo Palmar Neighborhood Watch Committee

“I can state that probably over a million dollars have been embezzled. The one that we know rightfully is the bypass. The bypass was sold for three hundred and seventeen thousand dollars. More than ten industrial acres along the highway were also sold…and if we do the math behind it, for every acre it goes for no less that forty thousand acres and if there is ten acres, we do the math it would be four hundred thousand. So that is the very minimum plus the three hundred and seventeen thousand dollars….and that is just the skim.”

 

Now where the village of San Jose Nuevo Palmar currently sits, once belonged to Belize Estate and Company and was given to the elders back in 1936 after they were removed from the land they settled in the Yalbac area. The title to the land was controlled by the Lands Advisory Committee. Back in 2001, the then Minister responsible for Lands, John Briceño signed off on the rules for the appointment of the committee which is made up of seven members: four seats reserved for elders of the village, two seats reserved for persons selected by election and one seat reserved for a representative from the village council. But despite that, the Committee was not formed.

 

Lorenzo Aldana

Lorenzo Aldana

“Belize Estate and Company was going to build a railway splitting the village in three thus that affected the communal life that they had. They started objecting to it and yes it was wrong, but they started to sabotage the company back then. Belize Estate and company in turn took a wrong approach and burned their houses down. Two Jesuit priests help the then chairman of San Jose Viejo, Maximilliano Perez to right a letter to the King and Emperor, King George the six. King George the sixth then in turn wrote to Belize Estate and Company that they ought to find a land for the Indians living in San Jose Viejo. That is how Belize Estate and Company could not turn their back and they found this place. Since 1996—is the date correct—there should have been an election held by the villagers to institute San Jose Palmar Lands Committee, however, they were appointed by the then government. And since that appointment came through, these people that were appointed simply started with what is called blatant corruption.”

 

The residents have since contacted the solicitor general for assistance in the matter and the SOLGEN is expected to meet with residents this Saturday. Since then they have gathered signatures which were presented to the Minister of Natural Resources and the Lands Commissioner.

 

Orlando Balam

“The villagers in a general meeting nominated six persons including myself and told us to go to the Solicitor General, Commissioner of Lands, Gaspar Vega in which we went and we first met with Mister Gaspar Vega and he promised that he is in support of this group because we have—we, the persons in charged; that the people nominated—we began to seek support by signatures. The only report that the said lands committee has ever given to us is in this piece of paper. No receipts, no documents, no vouchers…no nothing.  And this is a report given for eight years. I have to give my report as chairman every three months. And they come to report us for eight years.”

 

But according to former treasurer of the lands advisory committee, Francisca Teck, she has the reports but was told not to disclose them except to the committee.

 

Francisca Teck, Former Treasurer, Lands Advisory Committee

Francisca Teck

“I have all in my report from 2001 to 2013…I have all the report.”

 

Duane Moody

“The villagers are saying they haven’t gotten any report…”

 

Francisca Teck

“Wait…I didn’t give the record to them because Mister Perez says that I do not have to give any account to the villagers, only to the elders. That’s why I made the report, I have it pack up. I only gave one or two to Orlando. When they sold the parcel there, the only thing they gave me was the eighty thousand for the school and after that I didn’t get no money because I didn’t know how much they sold the bypass.”

 

Teck says that when she left the post as treasurer the Scotia Bank account had approximately four thousand four hundred dollars. Duane Moody for News Five.

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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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2 Responses for “Land and money; San Jose Nuevo Palmar villagers say plenty missing monies”

  1. Lorenzo says:

    It’s nice to hear these people are finally fighting for what’s theirs. I hope others follow suit.

  2. Lowjack says:

    Well, I’m not tired to say it, there will be a day for all
    those corrupt politics, people will not stand to all that corruption
    somebody have to stop it, I’ve seen Many lands, reserve lands
    pass to be private property, tell me how’s that? There is one
    name: CORRUPTION!!!!!!!!!!

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