A land dispute is ongoing in Silk Grass Village, Stann Creek District between two villagers. On one side, Joshua Bailey is saying that the lease given to Julia Williams had expired and he then decided to begin planting trees and building his house on the land. He spoke with our Stann Creek Correspondent Harry Arzu explaining that since the land was returned to government after the expiration of the lease it became available.
Joshua Bailey, Silk Grass Villager: “We live here eleven years ago. The first time I came here I checked with the Lands Department, this was an expired lease from 1997. So I decided to build a house on the property. Coming 2020 Ms.Williams – Julia Williams, the sister of Ivan Williams, delegate of John Saldivar, this land was reopened February 19 – all of a sudden she started coming back here and tried taking off this land but I don’t have anywhere to go. Well it was expired so once it expired it goes back to the government so it’s national land.”
Reporter: Was there anything on this land before?
Joshua Bailey, Silk Grass Villager: “Nothing. It was bush. You can see my house, you can see trees, I have lime trees, soursop trees, coconut planting, I live here well civilized already.”
Reporter: And you’re the one who planted all of this ?
Joshua Bailey, Silk Grass Villager: “Yep and I’m the one that donated to this road that we’re standing on right now, there was no road here. “
Reporter: Who else was back here before?
Joshua Bailey, Silk Grass Villager: “I have my sister, Kerwin, Mr.Jacobs, Mr.John all of us like seven of us were here in 2009. Right now we have fifty three people at this block right now.”
Reporter: So do you have any documentation for your piece of land ?
Joshua Bailey, Silk Grass Villager: “No I don’t have any but it was an expired lease so it’s the government, I approached the chairman the chairman said don’t worry go ahead build and he will make sure that it goes through with the expansion of the village. 53.3 acres 2020 February they come up with. How can you ever own 53.3 acres in a village ? 2020 ? I’ve lived here from 2009.”
Reporter: You’re saying for one person ?
Joshua Bailey, Silk Grass Villager: “For one person.”
The plot thickens in this dispute as Julia Williams who had a government lease for the 30.2 acres of land told our newsroom that several others have built on her land saying that they paid monies to the village Chairman for the land.
Julia Williams, Land Owner: “My concern is that I asked Harry Arzu to come and take an interview of this land because I have a problem with this land. I own the land and the chairman gave it out to villagers – not give it, sell it, sell it to villagers. More than one people I approached and asked how they got the piece of land and they said they paid the chairman for it.”
Reporter: How much land are you talking about ?
Julia Williams, Land Owner: “31.2 acres under Julia William’s name.”
Reporter: Is this land property or is it lease ?
Julia Williams, Land Owner: “Well I don’t owe the government anything, they never gave me my title but when they gave me the paper when I was done paying they said this is good as property but everything needs to process right now.”
Reporter: How long have you been having access to this land ?
Julia Williams, Land Owner: “Well I applied for this land from 1992.”
Reporter: So what have you been doing with it since then ?
Julia Williams, Land Owner: “Well first when I just got it I started working over the creek. I had orange orchards, we had craboo all kinds of things grew on that side and now this time I began to work this side here on the other side of the creek and since I started to work on this side of the creek I could recall in 2018 I saw a house start to come up here and I went to the chairman and told him that I saw a house going up back there I hope it’s not my land and he said no it’s not your land I would never do you something like that.” and continue looking at it now I got to find out that it was my same land. That was the first house that was going up for Joshua Bailey and beside that when I started to dig into it a lot of Spanish people showed me that they paid the chairman for this piece and it was already marked off and I asked them to please not to build on it because it’s not theirs. I think the chairman made the wrong move. He told me when I approached him that he was making extension for the village. How will he make extensions for the village on somebody’s land ? So I turned around and I said “I don’t think so.” I’ve stopped several people from building here and they told me that they paid him for the land that they got so it’s not one or two or three people telling me that it’s more than one. So I could see where he is telling the lie. Just yesterday I came after a lady back there and the lady said she’s not moving and that if she were to move I’d have to pay her her $600 I told her you pay me $600 then ? She said no I paid the chairman and I told her go to the chairman and let him give you the $600 because you’re not getting any from me. When you give the chairman the six hundred dollars did he give you a receipt and she said no, I told her well you already lost. I told her I don’t know how you will get your money.”
Love News will continue following this story.