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Jan 14, 2021

Changing the Culture of Accessing Land Services

Prime Minister John Briceño left the country on Tuesday and is to return on January seventeenth.  During his absence, the Minister of Natural Resources, Petroleum, and Mining is acting as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development.  But those additional duties did not prevent Minister Hyde from a scheduled visit to Dangriga, where the first of a series of consultations is taking place. Its an effort being undertaken by the Lands Department to provide administrative services to process land documents for ordinary Belizeans. News Five’s Duane Moody reports. 

 

Duane Moody, Reporting 

For decades, the process of acquiring a piece of land – be that lease or title – has been frustrating. Many would travel to the Lands Department in Belmopan to be given the run around and spend hours in the sweltering heat just to be turned away, while a privileged few would easily access services.

 

Egbert “Mime” Martinez

Egbert “Mime” Martinez, Resident, Dangriga 

“Look yah. I di apply fi wah piece ah land from I turn twenty-one. I get a piece of town land because I squat it – Wageirale. I squat that. Now I wah get wah piece of farm land weh I noh have to squat.”

 

Martinez, a popular Belizean artist, was among hundreds of residents from the Dangriga constituency in southern Belize, including the villages of Sarawee and Hope Creek, who made their way to the Town Council office in the Culture Capital for an opportunity to start and in some cases complete transactions to own a piece of land.

 

Fay Zabaneh

Fay Zabaneh, Logistics Coordinator

“They are sanitizing twice before they go up to the town hall where consultations are taking place with the different staff members from the ministry so that is what is happening. We have had to explain to them that he will be back because this is just a first of the series for him coming down here to give service to our people here in Dangriga; Sarawee and Hope Creek by extension. And so he will be back next week and we have explained that to them and since then, you would notice that the crowd started to leave. So it is a hundred and fifty numbers that we are giving out and then next week he will be back and we will make that announcement and he will serve another hundred and fifty until he sees as many people as he can.”

 

It’s the first of a series of consultations by Natural Resources Minister Cordel Hyde to take the administrative services of the Lands Department to the people, for whom, as born Belizeans, a piece of the Jewel is their birthright.

 

Cordel Hyde, Minister of Natural Resources

“It was clear to us from the very beginning that people struggle with navigating the whole cumbersome process of getting a land or applying for a piece of land, and particularly the ordinary people. The big people, they have ways and means of getting things done and the ordinary people don’t. And so we figured a long time ago that we really have to go to the people. At the end of the day, we have to take this all over the country; we have to make sure that people in every nook and cranny get an opportunity to own something so that they can get themselves out of poverty and ensure that their children move on with all the added opportunities that come with owning a piece of land.”

 

While coordinators say over a thousand persons came out, only one hundred and fifty would be dealt with today, much to the disappointment of many. But Minister Hyde says that the team returns to Dangriga next week. So where will the land being sought be sourced from?

 

Cordel Hyde

Cordel Hyde

“Dangriga is facing the same problem we have in Belize City; there is no national land, basically they are all gone. So ultimately in order for the Dangriga residents to get land in Dangriga, we’ll have to acquire land – we’ll either have to buy it or compensate landowners with land somewhere else and that’s gonna take a little while. For now, we have land in some of the surrounding villages and make the accessible to the folks here and they are more than willing to take that up.”

 

As residents exited the town hall, their excitement could be felt, even as the documents in their hands were but only a first step in the process of acquiring a piece of lease land.

 

Indira Coleman

Indira Coleman, Resident, Dangriga

“The process wasn’t bad – well the line was long yes – but being out here and trying to get, the numbers was a bit hectic, but all in all everything went well. And going upstairs the process, with social distancing it seems long, but everything went well. We saw the minister, our particulars were processed and everything went well.”

 

Karissa Alvarado

Karissa Alvarado, Resident, Dangriga

“I am excited. I di apply long time fi wa land and I still noh get none. Now I am in the process so I di wait fi make dehn call me and then they wah approve.”

 

Duane Moody 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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