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May 12, 2015

More Land Dispute Backa Gungulung!

Tensions are running high in the Holy Emmanuel Extension. The real threat of losing their land is looming over the heads of the settlers who call the area home, many for more than ten years. The threat is actually nothing new, but tonight there is added fuel to that long burning fire. These residents who moved here when it was nothing but swamp and jungle were told that they could apply, officially, for their parcels of land. But when they attempted to do so they’ve been turned back. That’s bad enough…but now they’ve gotten information that Area Representative Mark King has been signing recommendations for those very same parcels. It’s a potentially explosive situation, and Mike Rudon has the latest.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

For years, nobody cared when poor Belizeans and immigrants moved into this wetland at the far edge of the Lake Independence constituency. Politicians ensured that they received their citizenship and, of course, their voters’ IDs, and that was that. But suddenly this area, known as Gungulung, has become prime real estate, thanks to the Chetumal Street Bridge. And that’s why the settlers who lay claim to almost seventy lots are up in arms. Their Area Representative, Mark King, promised them that they could apply to own their parcels, but somehow that hasn’t worked out.


Fatima Cruz

Fatima Cruz, Resident

“He came pon news and he seh everybody weh live back ya must go and apply for land. I went again. Recently I went when they midi move those people, and they tell me I must wait again because they still noh ready.”


Bernarda Rivera, Resident

“He said to us come to my office, come and apply, come let us work together…everybody has been to Minister Mark King’s office and all they get is the map has not been approved yet…the map is not ready yet. He told me personally that the map has not been authenticated as yet, but that is a lie.”


Bernarda Rivera

And they know it is a lie because they’ve gotten hold of the official survey map of the area, concluded, authenticated and completely official since July 2014. And that’s not all that has fuelled fear and anger in this close-knit community.


Bernarda Rivera

“We have discovered that he has issued our land…he has given recommendation letters to his cronies, to his people, to his employees, to his committee members, to his relatives…he has given them the recommendation letters. He has personally taken those applications to Belmopan…nothing to do with the people living here now.”


Candy Garbutt

Candy Garbutt, Resident

“This is not fair. It’s wrong. How can they say that they are a government for the people? They are out for their people it looks like. We don’t have any money. They are out for the people with money. It’s not right. It’s not right. That is what they’re doing. The rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer. The poor try to get up and do something for themselves and they hold them down every time.”


Bernarda Rivera

“What will happen when those applications get approved? They will get a title. And what will happen with the title? The Minister will not come and move us. He thinks he’s smart. His people will come with title and say you have to move from Lot Six, you have to move from Lot Ten, you have to move from Lot Twenty-Three A, you have to move from Lot Eleven, you have to move from Lot One, Two…”


Hilberto Martine

Hilberto Martinez, Resident (Translated)

“We have worked very hard on these lands, and right now it seems like something impossible to get. We’re asking the Prime Minister to have a conscience. He thinks that perhaps we are Hispanic…but we are residents of this country. We have papers. We are Belizeans. So it should be possible for us to get help with these lands. We have rights.”


And these Belizeans, born and naturalized, are demanding those rights which they say they earned at the polls.


Fatima Cruz

“When election time come, he come and he seh oh…I promise they noh wah move unu. You give me your vote and I wah have unu back. Why now they wah move we and they deh give other people with money to apply for our lands when we deh live deh fu years? We have kids. If they move we weh we gwein…gwein pon the street go live with fu we kids? That dah weh he want. He live inna wah big mansion so he feel like we dah garbage.”


Sonia Elizabeth Pineda

Sonia Elizabeth Pineda, Resident (Translated)

“He needs to come to talk to us now that we need him. When he needed votes, he came and kissed us on our cheeks. It didn’t matter that we were dirty but he was kissing us because he wanted our votes. Why doesn’t he come and kiss and hug us now and tell us that he will give us what he promised?”


Luwina Garnett

Luwina Garnett, Resident

“Unu noh fu deh do dey thing to poor people mein. We put unu inna power. Why unu have to do dey thing to we. Mark King…get yu act together. This da chance…cold chance Mark King1 Noh mek we have to go front ah yu face, yu know. We wah find yu. Just like how you come find we fu vote and put yu inna power mek yu have yu lot ah money. Come deal with we the right way noh deh sell we out like that.”


Ines Antonio Bonilla, Resident

“We don’t want to hear anything from Mr. Mark King, but we would appreciate anything that the Prime Minister can do with us…anything that he could assist with because we know he has a big heart, we know he’s kind, and Mark King is not showing any of that.”


Daniel August

As these Belizeans prepare to stand and fight, their children live in constant fear of losing the only homes they have ever known.


Daniel August, Resident

“I like this place. I have a lot of fun with my friends, and I can do whatever I want in the yard when I finish my homework, my spelling words. When I’m finished I go play in the yard.”


Alvaro Perez, Resident

“We done live here fu long Miss. And we done chop the yard and cut down all the trees. Now we have to go fu wah next land and go do the same thing all over and go build again.”


Ivan Alexander Riverol

Ivan Alexander Riverol, Resident

“I feel bad the way how we have to move because we already deh live yah long right. I noh like that we mi have to move from deh to deh. And we struggle hard fu get ya. Long time ago we have to walk through water and all kinda thing. We mi have to walk through bush. My ma even had to back us here.”


So what happens next? By all indications a long and nasty fight.


Kirk Vernon

Kirk Vernon, Resident

“Dey Venezuelan money, dey Petrocaribe money…everything…from Taiwan all a deh deh no mean nothing to we Natural born Belizeans yah. We struggle hard. You know how long we deh inna dis bush ya? If we neva fall di big tree yu helicopter couldn’t see we. Long time we deh back ya and we noh plan fu give up.”


Ines Antonio Bonilla

“Give up what? My house…they wah kill me een deh. They noh deh move me from out deh. My house coming down with me.”


Mike Rudon for News Five.

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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