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May 19, 2014

Tensions boiling over between Government and BGYEA

Relations between the government and BGYEA have not always been cozy.  In fact, the two have been mostly at odds over a development at the Harmonyville community on the George Price Highway. BGYEA President, Nigel Petillo is the outspoken head of the grassroots organization; this morning, emotions were running high because Cabinet has decided that a corn cultivation project which was to reap proceeds for community development cannot happen. Petillo says they have already invested significantly in a partnership with an investor in the area, so G.O.B.’s decision is not going down well. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The clear-cutting, burning and tilling of a forty-acre tract on the fringes of Harmonyville, to be used for the cultivation of corn, is the subject of an ongoing land dispute between the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture.

 

Nigel Petillo

Nigel Petillo, President, BGYEA

“The administrative body of BGYEA got the blessings from the members and we sign wahn arrangement with this individual and we went ahead and we push fu we agenda; clean down di buffer, farm di buffer, mek money affa di buffer fi push roads and develop our community.  Dat dah weh dehn di fight down.”

 

On Friday, Commissioner of Lands and Surveys Wilbert Vallejos issued a release informing that Cabinet has rejected the use of the buffer zone for agriculture.  The announcement succeeds a cease and desist order as of May eighth, barring the unauthorized activities.  It has undoubtedly raised the ire of BGYEA, the administration overseeing the issuance of titles in Harmonyville.

 

David Barnett

David Barnett, Vice President, BGYEA

“We come up with this thing that we could keep the buffer clean and the buffer maintains itself, actually pay for itself getting cleaned.  The government told us that we are not to put nothing permanent, permanent now; corn noh permanent!  Coulda neva be classified as permanent.  Corn, in a fu we ting we look at corn as a cash crop.  This is not something that takes not even a year to be harvested, you know.  Soh corn noh wah di ya all year round or whatever.”

 

According to the statement, BGYEA, having advocated for the removal of squatters who were unlawfully occupying the separating area, entered into an agreement with businessman Samuel Patton to cultivate cereal plant.  The irony, says the commissioner, is that BGYEA is now encroaching on the said buffer.

 

Nigel Petillo

“The government came out here and told the investor, didn’t come to the managers of Harmonyville, the community, BGYEA, they told our investor ih haffi stop weh ih di do ya, scare weh wi investor, frighten wi investor, done spend whole lotta money ya, wi gah wahn lee agreement signed and written, and disrespecting our body, our board.  We went on to the government, met Vallejos, Vallejos told us we need to write for permission, asking to utilize the buffer.  I reminded him, “You told me verbally Mr. Vallejos that we are the managers of that buffer zone and we need to clean it.  We need to keep it clean or we leff it eena ih natural state and so we came up with this idea of replacing regular jungle bush with corn and the government said no to that.”

 

Of the estimated one thousand, three hundred acres of land, Harmonyville is buffered from its end near Cotton Tree Village to the Beaver Dam Bridge by twenty-nine acres.  BGYEA however, disputes that survey, contending that it is a seventy-acre expanse.  Of that swath, the association says work has been done to prepare over fifty percent of the land for farming.

 

David Barnett

“This initiative we plan to go all the way through with it.  We don’t see nothing wrong and if Mr. Barrow is going to send the police out here to shoot me down or to lock me up because we want plant corn, they would have rather us to have plant flowers, according to Mr. Vallejos, I asked him this question.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“The Cabinet decision is such that you won’t be allowed to proceed with the clearing and the cultivation of corn here.  What do you say or where do you stand with regards to that decision?”

 

Nigel Petillo

“No disrespect.  No disrespect Isani.  No disrespect Belize.  No disrespect government but we can’t stop.  We have to root fu we corn now.  We haffi pay back fu dis investment, we haffi continue develop fu we community.  Are you prepared Mr. Government to come and put in the developments that is necessary and is wanted for us to access our land?  Are you going to put the water in so that we could water our plants and work, and have the land work for us and take us out of poverty.”

 

Buffer zones, by law, are crown lands and must be preserved in their natural state.  Nonetheless, a challenge is being issued to government to come up with a better alternative for the maintenance of the acreage.

 

David Barnett

“Where is the love?  What have we really done wrong?  How did we offend you by planting corn?  How did it get there, you know?  We want to know what did we do wrong when you told us [that] we are the managers of this piece of land.  We are supposed to keep it clean.  We found a way.  If you have a better way please bring it to the table.  We have been asking you, telling you time and time again, come clean our buffer for us, give us roads [and] your answer to your people, “No!”

 

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture, while welcoming meaningful dialogue with residents of Harmonyville, says that the law must be adhered to in order to safeguard the appropriate development of the community. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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3 Responses for “Tensions boiling over between Government and BGYEA”

  1. Ali BaBarrow protects his 40 says:

    If you don’t pay off the correct govt official, elected or not, you run the risk of being shutdown.

  2. Bmp man says:

    Two words of advise to Nigel Petillo -
    1 – Its easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar and

    2 – A lot of people don’t know when they have won

  3. gazaman says:

    Get a job…after all these years you could’ve bought your own piece of land…. so sick of these scammers….

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