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Jun 14, 2004

Benque will get its park

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It was a dispute over six lots in the town of Benque Viejo del Carmen that the mayor said were earmarked for a park and his political opponent claimed were private property. Today the Supreme Court spoke, saying the construction of the park could proceed. But as News 5′s Patrick Jones discovered, the quarrel had more to do with petty party politics than it did with the law.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

Kendall Mendez, P.U.P. political officer in Benque Viejo del Carmen, was the last plaintiff to exit courtroom number four this morning after Supreme Court Justice Samuel Awich dismissed a lawsuit he and others had brought against Mayor Said Badi Guerra. Mendez was seeking to evict the town council from a piece of land where the mayor had begun construction of a park. Mendez, in an apparent face saving gesture, offered a compromise.

Kendall Mendez, Plaintiff

?I think the ruling is fair enough, but actually what I want to comment is that the lots that is being under dispute are actually lots according to the Ministry of Natural Resources, because our lots committee wouldn?t take any action in distributing the lots if it was a reserve or an open space.?

?And our proposal to the mayor is that they keep the four leases so that they can use it as a park, but to leave the two freehold titles to the persons to whom they will be conveyed to.?

But while Mendez was offering, Guerra?s attorney, senior counsel Dean Barrow, says the olive branch came long before today?s ruling from Prime Minister Said Musa, who assured the U.D.P. leader that the dispute would be settled amicably.

Dean Barrow, Senior Counsel

?He has agreed that the town of Benque should get back all the lots. He said, however, because Mr. Mendez has registered title as opposed to the other four lot owners who had only leases, and because Mendez has already sold the pieces that he grabbed, he the Prime Minister cannot arrange it so that that those two pieces come back to the Town Council. But the other four pieces, they will in fact give back to the Town Council so that the mayor and his council can proceed with the construction of their park.?

When the case first came before Justice Awich last week, Barrow took a preliminary objection on the ground that before any court action is brought against a sitting mayor or a Town Council, thirty days notice be given. The judge agreed and upheld the objection. Barrow says there were sinister political motives behind the P.U.P. political officer?s attempt to stop construction of the park.

Dean Barrow

?And then he turned around and himself grabbed two of the lots–the totality of the land amounts to six lots–he grabbed two for himself, one for himself, one for his wife, and he gave the other four to friends and family. After the Mayor found out what had happened and took a stand and decided no, we insist on getting this back for the people of Benque for the park, what Mr. Mendez did was to turn his leases into registered titles and thereafter he sold the two lots that he had grabbed for himself and his wife, and so we ended up with this situation where the Mayor and the people of Benque Viejo said listen, we are not going to give this up without a fight.?

The land was originally given to government for use by the people of Benque Viejo by Juan de Dios Guerra, uncle of the current mayor. The land was subdivided and given out to individuals by the U.D.P. government during their last term. When the government changed in 1998, the leases were cancelled, ostensibly for the purpose of using the land for a public park. Mayor Guerra will have a meeting tonight with the town council at which he will seek their approval to ask government to acquire the remaining two freehold lots for completion of the park.

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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