Yesterday, we showed you a group of villagers gathered outside the National Assembly to protest the leasing of land in Santa Cruz Village, Stann Creek District. The leases were reportedly granted by the Ministry of Natural Resources to Belize Wind Energy Limited. The issue, however, is that portions of the land are currently occupied by several families and that the villagers in collaboration with the village council were looking to expand the boundaries of their village. Rodwell Ferguson, Area Representative for Stann Creek West, told us yesterday that the protesting villagers hailed from not only Santa Cruz, but also from Santa Rosa and San Roman.
Rodwell Ferguson, Area Representative, Stann Creek West: “Santa Cruz is one of the fastest growing communities in the country of Belize, it’s only twenty years old and it’s almost the size of Independence and Ladyville already. Even the Ministry of Rural Development have plans to expand Santa Cruz into a town and now issuing two thousand acres of land parallel to the villages, that will stop Santa Cruz from growing into the expansion that they wanted. So the people came out today and they want to protest and so I’m supporting them a hundred percent. Santa Cruz is a very productive community so people work and so the majority went to work today and these are the few that could have come out and supported the agenda. Absolutely no consultation we only heard about it when we heard the lease was issued and now the guys are barricading the land that nobody can enter the property. “
Reporter: Okay and that land encompasses as you said three communities.
Rodwell Ferguson, Area Representative, Stann Creek West: “Three communities and in particular Santa Cruz some houses are a part of the two thousand acres so people are going to lose their homes, they’re going to lose what they have.”
Reporter: Now the government has been ignoring , because they’ve been at this in terms of the water board issue, you also have spoken about it in the house what do you expect is going to happen?
Rodwell Ferguson, Area Representative, Stann Creek West: “Well they will continue to ignore until they come out office so I say in a couple months time they are gone and we are going to give the people what they are requesting.”
The UDP Standard Bearer in that division, Ivan Williams, explained that the residents currently occupying the land are, in fact, squatters; adding that there is land allotted for the Santa Cruz villagers to expand their village
Ivan Williams, UDP Standard Bearer, Dangriga: “First and foremost I would like the media and the country to know that this is something that the relevant Ministry of Natural Resources is addressing. Since I became the standard bearer I learnt that yes there was an approval for some land south of Santa Cruz and from my recollection I had raised it with the relevant ministry because the challenge that we have is that there is a number of people who engage in land – you know there’s a practice in Belize that people just go and acquire land or squatting if you will. And sometimes they do so on lands which were already given out or approved by the Ministry of Lands and this is something I know for a fact that the Ministry of Lands always has to be addressing. From what I learned from the Ministry of Lands they are addressing it in terms of identifying those people who are squatting on it or who had farming on it and the whole idea was to make some adjustments in it because if you were a person who had been granted lands and then you find out that people were squatting on the land then it’s a matter of putting the parties together with a view to try to make some adjustments. My understanding is that the land was acquired for some wind energy development and that was done perhaps some six, seven or eight years ago and so that was even before my time of becoming a standard bearer. We have approached that village in regards to close to a thousand lots which the Ministry of Natural Resources is looking at in respect to expansion of the village so as we speak right now there is close to a thousand lots that should be available to the villagers for expansion.”
Up until yesterday, Ferguson stated that they had yet to contact the principals of Belize Wind Energy Limited, but that they are planning to do so.