Land tenure dispute erupts in Red Bank, Stann Creek
Problems are brewing in the village of Red Bank in Stann Creek. Love News has been following the situation since the weekend where there appears to be disagreement among the councillors and some community members on one side and the chairman, Kenroy Cal, on the other. As we understand it, there are some of the councillors and community members, who say the chairman of the village is not consulting his council and his community on critical decisions, including land tenure. On the flip side, some are accusing supporters of the United Democratic Party of political grandstanding because of their partisan disagreement with the PUP-aligned chairman. Dale McDougall and Harry Arzu put the pieces together and collaborated on this report.
Dale McDougall, Love News: Land tenure is the crux of the current dispute in Red Bank Village, Stann Creek. Residents and local officials accuse the chairman, Kenroy Cal of circumventing the rules and not consulting with them. Alberto Acal made this point.
Alberto Acal – Local Activist: “If you look at it the policy says that in a community you always conduct meetings, you discuss with your people what is coming in what is coming out what is coming into the community and then you hear the concern of people and then if they say yes then you as the leader go ahead and you execute that job. But then if you do it individually and you do it on your own then when I look at it that person is violating the people’s rights.”
Dale McDougall, Love News: It appears that a businessman, who recently started setting up shop in the village, is trying to acquire a piece of residential land. The man is seen as an outsider – and residents fear that because he’s a businessman, he is being prioritized as this villager explains.
Villager: “He’s an outside. I don’t think they should be given the opportunity first than our children because I myself don’t own a lot. I was promised to get a lot for tomorrow but I’m not sure.”
Dale McDougall, Love News: Former village councilor, Juan Modesto Teul called it this.
Juan Modesto Teul – Former Village Councillor, Red Bank: “As we can see right now it’s all corruption. This chairman is giving out land to people from outside especially Mr.______ from Santa Cruz. If you come to the entrance you see a container there which belongs to him. If I ask the question to these people or the councilors now for who is that container they don’t know, they have no idea because this is a one man show. Village councils are not elected to do a one man show they’re elected to serve the people, to let the people know what is going on.”
Dale McDougall, Love News: While this businessman’s ability to secure land is one hot button issue, there is a political undertone. The sense we are getting is that because Red Bank has a mixed village council, the UDPs are being accused of political grandstanding and the PUPs are being called out for refusing to adhere to law. The village council secretary says he’s frustrated by it.
Mr. Cus – Red Bank Village Council Secretary: “According to the law Chapter 88 on the revised book it says that you need to write a requisition letter which I did. So when I write the requisition letter this chairman failed to do so to convene the meeting as well. So the only option we got now is to clarify ourselves to the public and we want the government to look into our concern please tell the chairman or give him advice to follow the rule of law because we are following things legally and this chairman is not cooperating with us it’s totally wrong.”
Dale McDougall, Love News: What about the man being accused of not doing his job? Chairman Kenroy Cal says that not only has the businessman been told to wait, but there is a plan in place to create opportunities for residents to get their land.
Kenroy Cal – Chairman, Red Bank Village: “If I’m right we have a project that will be ongoing. We have a 333 residential house lots that we’ll be surveying. I believe they’re concerned about the entract of the village which I don’t know what is their case because I was not there but in some case they’re saying I sold that land to a specific individual. I would like to clarify and make the public aware that not a zero dollars I’ve collected for those lots.”
Harry Arzu, Stann Creek Correspondent: How many lots are we talking about though ?
Kenroy Cal – Chairman, Red Bank Village: “One lot only.”
Harry Arzu, Stann Creek Correspondent: That’s where the container is at ?
Kenroy Cal – Chairman, Red Bank Village: “That is where the container is at but if I can show you, because I believe –
Harry Arzu, Stann Creek Correspondent: It’s not four lots ?
Kenroy Cal – Chairman, Red Bank Village: “No it’s not four lots. If you can see here we have a map for three hundred and thirty five lots.”
Dale McDougall, Love News: And how did this businessman get to set up a container at the entrance of the village? Cal says the businessman has paid the fee to the community.
Kenroy Cal – Chairman, Red Bank Village: “I have given him one lot without no pay because Mr.______ has paid his entrance fee last year. As the policy of this community if you want to come and live in Red Bank you have to ay an entrance fee. Therefore he had requested for a house lot. Eventually we don’t have no lots that are being surveyed that time so I told him let him wait and whenever we have the project started then we can consider giving him a house lot.”
Dale McDougall, Love News: A meeting was planned for Sunday afternoon to chart the way forward and determine final implementation of the project, which will give more than 300 residents – particularly first-time owners – a piece of land. But another thing the residents raised concern was the input of local tour guides to create opportunities in the community, which is home to the scarlet macaw.
Kenroy Cal – Chairman, Red Bank Village: “I believe everybody is on board when I was at the youth meeting they brought that to attention as well. Well you know as the chairperson we make sure that everyone enjoys what we have to offer here in Red Bank and then Red Bank is known to the home of the Scarlet Macaw so therefore I won’t do anything by myself, would therefore invite all of those especially those people in Red Bank that do tours for a living that always are into tourism and so forth we’ll bring them to tourism and then we will chart a way forward how we can address or if we need to reserve these hills to protect our Scarlet Macaw then that would be a decision that would be made by the people of this community not myself.”
Dale McDougall, Love News: Cal commits to consultation going forward but will the residents participate? Only time will tell. We continue to monitor developments. For now, they’ll agree to disagree. Dale McDougall, Love News.