Land Dispute Sparks Tensions Between Villagers in Toledo District
Over the weekend, a land dispute led to tensions flaring between villagers in the Toledo District. For months, the bitter dispute has led to residents of Laguna and Yemeri Grove butting heads over land ownership and tenure. Both communities feel they are being jilted and remain at odds despite numerous attempts by the government to mend fences. Reporter Vejea Alvarez tells us about the latest heated exchange between the southern communities.
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: On Sunday, hostility and tempers rose, and police were called in as residents of Laguna and Emeri Grove Villagers clashed once again.”
“Look at all of you with your machetes. So please you all are trespassing.”
“You are nothing to say you are from San Miguel. You have nothing to say.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: The southern communities have been locked in a disagreement over village boundaries. The Yemeri Grove residents believe that their community is being encroached upon and want Laguna villagers to cease development in the area of dispute. Yemeri Grove Chairman, Herald Usher, explained that even after GOB intervened residents of the neighboring village continued.
Herald Usher, Yemeri Grover Chairman: “It is the same peg that we had came in and pulled out before because the pegs that are being placed there not by the government, not by licensed surveyors but by the MLA. Whilst we are sitting down and whilst we are waiting for the government to do something about it these people are being allowed to actually come in and do what they feel like within what we know is our traditional boundaries.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: Usher says that the lots in question are in Yemeri Grove but the Chairman of Laguna Village, Sebastian Itch, denied that allegation and says the land belongs to his people.
Sebastian Itch, Laguna Village Chairman: “We are clear where we are, the boundary is all the way up to the Southern Highway. Come on the government is supposed to come in and intervene. All of these lots were surveyed by the government a long time ago and it’s given to people of Laguna. So how can they come and tell us that you know that the border lines are all the way -“
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: For months, the government has been working with the parties to resolve the issue but both communities feel that more needs to be done. On May 3rd, the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs announced that markers were illegally placed in the area by residents of Laguna who did not get the permission of the Ministry of Natural Resources. However, Itch says that under the CCJ ruling, they are guaranteed communal land rights.
Sebastian Itch, Laguna Village Chairman: “We will develop. People will no stop us. This is for us. Our land. No problem from us.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: Sunday’s heated exchange led to the Commissioner of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Gregory Choc, responding to the area but he refused to comment on the matter. Usher says that his villagers have been trying to get clarification on the boundaries of their community but their efforts have been to no avail.
Herald Usher, Yemeri Grover Chairman: “Right where we have the sign “Welcome to Yemeri Grove” where we have actually some photos of people who actually started this village, there are people who have been living here for probably almost the past hundred years. We have the photograph there and when I applied to survey one hundred one acre blocks for our people and when I went to Lands Department they told me that you know something we was instructed by Belmopan that almost the entire Yemeri Grove is under communal land. Now you are saying that even this placard that we have here that says “Welcome to Yemeri Grove” which have our family members, our grandfather, our father, you are saying that they will be taking it and handing it over to the MLA? We won’t stand for it.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News: The residents of Yemeri Grove say they feel that their Mayan neighbors are being favored by the government and are calling on GOB to urgently address the matter.
Herald Usher, Yemeri Grover Chairman: “The Minister of Indigenous Affairs actually told us you know what hold it down. She went on national radio and television station to say hold it down. Yemeri Grove sits by and we ar waiting and and as you can see Laguna is building so I mean this thing is so one sided. You know imagine all the way out on the highway they are telling us that that is communal land.”
Vejea Alvarez, Love News.