Land Dispute Tensions Persist in Yemeri Grove and Laguna

Land Dispute Tensions Persist in Yemeri Grove and Laguna

Tensions between the residents of Yemeri Grove and Laguna in the Toledo District have de-escalated but the situation is reportedly far from settled. Last week the Government of Belize intervened calling both villages together for a meeting and brokering an agreement to bring that ended months of contention between residents. However, Yemeri Grove Chairman Harold Usher says that the agreement was one-sided and did little to address the concerns of his villagers, who feel that their village lands are being wrestled away from them. Usher told Love News that his villagers have been abiding peacefully by the instructions of the Ministry of Natural Resources and allege that Laguna villagers continue to violate those instructions unimpeded.

Herald Usher, Yemeri Grove Chairman: “The meeting concluded by actually the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, the personnel from there actually stated that they would have a written agreement by the AJ which will be sent back to me so that I can actually go over it and also have my attorney look at it then if we are satisfied then we can sign it. However, I must say that in that meeting what was brought up is that they would have asked, they were asking for both Yemeri Grove and Laguna to discontinue any development into the disputed area. However, I stand by what I have been saying all along that never once at no time Yemeri Grove  personnel has done any sort of development within the area. The only thing the Yemeri Grove personnel has done was went out there and put some sticks in the ground to mark what would have been a parcel of land issued out to village members. All development, I’ve visited all media houses and everyone can go and check it all development in the area was done by Laguna and we have been abiding by what the minister have asked from the beginning. And we as the Yemeri Grove, I don’t see that there’s even any need for us because we are not doing anything in the area. The only thing we had placed so far was those sticks, only sticks, and nothing else in the area.”

Usher also said that there is an apparent cultural clash occurring in several communities between Maya and non-Maya groups. Usher alleges that the clash is being fueled by the Maya Leaders Alliance and further alleges that the Government of Belize has not been dealing fairly with Yemeri Grove in the ongoing discussions.

Herald Usher, Yemeri Grove Chairman: “And even when we attend the meetings, I must say that they might be one of the people who are conducting the meeting that would be I’d would say fear but they’re so one sided even the way they speak to us, the questions they would ask and most of the time they are actually dictating to us, rather than actually listening. And I must say this, I was told and I won’t hide it by the government attorney that goes to the CCJ that all he gets from me is resistance. Man, come on, if they’re trying to actually telling you they’re telling you that, you know what, this is what will happen and the Mayans have the right because the court made a ruling and they have their customary land rights so they can actually take what they feel like and we can’t speak because what is within village boundaries once it is not issued already it is considered to be government land. Yes, I know that. It is considered as Crown land and the government never controls the Crown land but if it falls within your village, even the village council act states that they must consult with the village before the government or anybody else do anything, they must consult with the village and thereafter then the decision will be made. However nobody consulted with us, nobody was consulting with us. They handed us a map and I hope that it will be very soon that I can show you guys this map that actually the map that we know as Yemeri Grove they are taking away everything that is left.”

Usher stressed that the history of Yemeri Grove can be traced back over a hundred years predating the establishment of Laguna. GOB has committed to establishing a temporary border between Yemeri Grove and Laguna, and said that setting up a permanent border will be given high priority.

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