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Sep 15, 2020

Lucky Strike Distributes Land – but is it Legal?

The topic of land distribution and ownership has been a long and thorny issue in Belize.  For most, the opportunity to acquire a piece of land in the village or town they grew up in is not easy.  The process is time consuming and often times costly.  But tonight, there is one chairman in Belize Rural North who is determined to distribute lots to up to seventy-five of his residents.  Chairman Stanley Smith of Lucky Strike says that his people are in need of land to build their homes and do subsistence farming.  He says he has found the ideal plot of land that has not been touched in over two decades.  For over a week now, the residents have been cutting and burning out the wooded area to get a piece of land, but one former chairman is calling for the residents to stop.  He says the land has an owner and he thinks they are going about it the wrong way. Today, News Five travelled to Lucky Strike to speak to the current and former chairman about their views on the distribution of this piece of land. Here’s the story.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Lucky Strike Villagers are hard work – cutting and clearing out this twenty-acre plot of land that sits in the middle of the village. It’s a forested area that is situated right off the main road but according to Chairman Stanley Smith it hasn’t been developed for more than twenty years.

 

Stanley Smith

Stanley Smith, Chairman, Lucky Strike

“We have a piece of land over yah weh available I would ah say, to we – over twenty – twenty five years. The whole village come out and say Chairman I think dah time mek we come out deh and get wah piece ah land. I tell them well, I dah unu chairman and I nuh wah back down and tell unu no – unu let’s go. Right away we gone out and we start to measure up weh we wah put our road – hundred by hundred and everybody come out and everybody support.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“Now, have you guys checked the records at the lands department that this land doesn’t have an owner?”

 

Stanley Smith

“Well, like weh I say, that is what we are looking into right now at this moment. We have a surveyor who was up here last week or last two weeks. He done come look on it already and he deh in deh the deal with that right now as we speak.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So, the residents are still going ahead, cleaning, chopping it out?”

 

Stanley Smith

“Twenty-four-seven. Deh deh with all headlight inna this the chop last night. Deh nuh the stop. They mean business and they want piece of land.”

 

But former chairman Oscar Pollard – who also happens to be standard bearer for the Belize People’s Front in Belize Rural North – doesn’t agree with this approach. He says the plot of land has an owner – the last known owner he says is a Chinese national. Now, he says what the villagers are doing is illegal. He believes the residents are motivated by assurances from area representative Edmond Castro.

 

Oscar Pollard

Oscar Pollard, Former Chairman, Lucky Strike

“They just the measure and issue. The land is not being acquired. It is a private piece of land. I know as a past chairman, I deal with a lot of lots and all these with buildings on it were created through my tenure. I know there are certain things you have to do which they are not doing at this point in time.   My concern is that the villagers, anybody who go and build on that land without they have the proper things in place and any owner show up will lose their investment.   The government keeps reminding that squatting is illegal. So, you as a chairman can’t tell the people just tek it or as area rep tell them just take the land because I got unu back and I wah do what needs to be done. That nuh go so.”

 

Chairman Smith says that all the residents are onboard and that this land distribution project has no connections to the Area Representative. Stanley says that the plan is to sub-divide it so that more than seventy-five villagers can get a piece of land – a move he believes that will address the hazards this land poses, as well the land ownership issue.

 

Stanley Smith

“This piece of land – dah in yah everything live – snake, tiger, everything and that dah one of the concerns for all the parents deh. Right weh part we stand up right yah is where one of the parents complained that the tiger come out from this piece of bush and so the school right next door right over there where all the kids through this same land right yah where the kids tek bush to go to school through this same bush. The other side we have the other guys the chop out and clear and they done kill two Tommy Goff right next to the school. So, this dah the only piece of land middle of the village that I think we could ah develop and weh good fi a new site fi we weh everybody could share and make use of this land.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“When is the last time the village has taken an initiative like this to distribute land to its residents?”

 

Stanley Smith

“Whew! I honestly can’t remember. I can’t remember.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“And so the need for a piece of land for your people – it’s urgent?”

 

Stanley Smith

“It’s very urgent. From I get in, ‘Chairman, dis dah weh we put yuh yah fah’ and so I come in to fulfil what I need to do and I tell deh until the owner come with a paper we nuh wah stop. We nuh wah stop.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

 

We reached out to the area rep for Belize Rural North, Edmond Castro for a comment on the matter, but he didn’t respond to our queries.


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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