The owners of the two-point-five acres of land at mile forty-four on the George Price Highway have come out to assert that they will take legal action against anyone who infringes on the private land. This area became a point of contention when Nigel Petillo and hundreds of other citizens began lobbying for squatters rights. The owner of the property is a Belizean company, Belmopan Land Development Corporation whose shareholders are Garde Financial Management Company Limited and the former Central Bank Governor, Glenford Ysaguirre. Jaraad Ysaguirre, one of the representatives for the owners explained that they were not aware that it was this particular land in question until they saw it on social media on Sunday.
Jaraad Ysaguirre, Representative, Belmopan Land Development Corporation: We understand that people have some desires or intentions with the land but we want to emphasize that is it is privately owned and we will have take all necessary steps to exert our ownership and our intention is not take anyone to court but if it comes to that we’ll have to do what’s necessary because it’s privately owned land it’s not abandoned or it’s not a vacant piece of property that is just there. To be fair it’s just that on Sunday when we saw the images on social media it really alerted us to exactly what the property was and looking realized that this is the property belonging to the company. The taxes have been paid up. As a part of the decision from the Supreme Court they made deductions for the amount of any property tax that was owing from the quantum that was awarded so for all intents and purposes the taxes have been fully paid.”
As we noted, the former Central Bank Governor, Glenford Ysaguirre is a shareholder in the Belmopan Development Corporation. According to him, the onus is not on them to provide land for aspiring farmers or landowners.
Jaraad Ysaguirre, Representative, Belmopan Land Development Corporation: “My concern is not what they want. I mean I could understand what they want the issue for me is that I’m a representative of the owner of the land Belmopan Land Development Corporation and our concern is that that is private property with ownership and we intend to assert our ownership over the land and protect our rights in that land. We are prepared to take further action, we will charge people or we will file trespassing charges against people who attempt to encroach illegally on that property for whatever reason. Well it’s not the obligation of the company to provide land for grassroots people. This is a titled property that has been in the possession of a company, a Belizean owned company a Belizean company for over thirty years. Your need for a piece of land doesn’t mean you can dispossess someone of their property.”
Nigel Petillo took to social media this morning responding to the representatives saying that they will not be discouraged.
Nigel Petillo, Land Activist: “Over and over you me and almost all of us have been hearing of cases where the government takes away your land, takes away a lot of people’s land. They have always had issues where people have had to take government to court. They’re hiding a lot and we need to pressure them. Every individual, every Belizean we need to pressure the government. Why hide their information ? Why is it that we can’t go into Lands Department and ask “How much tax is owed on it? ,How much land does that individual own? How much land does that company own?” etc ? Why do they tend to keep that information from us ? All of a sudden now the government is talking about a company owns this land here but yet they’ve been giving out land so I’m not satisfied with that explanation and you shouldn’t be satisfied with that explanation as well Belizeans. The main thing here is that we’re trying to make land available for the Belizean grassroots people especially, actually all Belizeans but I am so concerned about the Belizean grassroots because for decades, generations, election after election the grassroots people been played and used as pawns just to get them in. So that news that was sent out last night, I’m not satisfied by that I don’t want to hear anything abut that. What I will tell you after I heard the CEO of lands Mr.Belisle yesterday he said the government has no role when it comes to anybody encroaching on private land unless that individual who owns that private land goes and complain to the government or the police and say “Here what is going on, somebody is on my land I need you to help me get them off the land.” now that is a different scenario. So the police coming out there that day the only role they could have probably come out there for is to probably tell us about making sure we have on our face masks and make sure we’re adhering to the rules and regulations of the curfew laws but they didn’t have any right to move us off that land period.”
Earlier this week, Love News sought comment from the Ministry of Natural Resources on the matter. According to CEO Kerry Belisle, since the land is privately owned, the situation would have to be dealt with between the owner and the farmers. He also mentioned that to claim squatter’s right that would be another legal process the farmers would have to go through. Petillo has since announced that he is tentatively planning to restart his demands at the end of May.