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Several Belize City Residents Squatting Blocked off from Privately Owned Land

Two hundred men, women and children were blocked from accessing their homes this afternoon after businessman, Jack Charles placed boulders in the area. The situation escalated when residents began protesting the move and called in the media. Dale McDougall has the story.

Dale McDougall, Love News: These boulders being moved to the entrance of land that businessman Jack Charles owns are what have residents at mile one and a half on the George Price Highway up in arms. The more than two hundred residents including children have lived in the area for more than three years and they say that blocking their only entrance prevents them access to basic goods and services. 

Voice of Concerned Citizen: “Because if you notice watch there this lady can’t even take out her car. You see people have to come to the back here, people have to go work and all of those things. This is not right. You check what this man is doing ? Like what we’re saying this is big chance they’re chancing the poor people back here. You see everybody back here is poor people you know ? Watch who they have to bring police to try to deal with us because you know if we try to stand up for our rights hurry they will want to bring police and lock up man and all kind of thing for just standing up for our rights. No man this is not right what he is doing back here.”

Dale McDougall, Love News: But in this case Charles argues that he has given these individuals who are likely squatting ample time to move. Charles told us off camera that he has asked the police department to write the residents letters giving them forty eight hours notice to move. That notice would have taken them to last Wednesday but instead he gave them a second notice which brings us to today. A day in which resident Daffle Dodden says is one that requires a major intervention.

Daffle Bodden, City Resident:“My vehicle is parked back there can’t come out and I need to reach to work because I need to feed my children. I need it. Any minister who can help us we need to solve the problem. We need some way out because I know that it’s not all of this place given to those people they took more than what they are to take. I know somewhere out there to go through somewhere so they need to come help us in this situation right now and I’m asking them for their help. Anybody who wants to help us please come help us because we need to get out from here, we need to go to work. Children need to go to school. Monday to Friday children are going to school how will they pass? They will climb over these big rocks here ? Look at me just not to try to get past I have to climb over the rock a man had to help me come down off the big stones that they put in front of the place.”

Dale McDougall, Love News: And in situations like this the intervention most people ask for is one from Belmopan. Bodden made this appeal to the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Daffle Bodden, City Resident: “I have to ask our government what we are doing ? Honestly o God we are the poor Belizeans that are struggling and that are feeling all the pain. Nobody else is feeling the pain along with us only us.”

Dale McDougall, Love News: So what happens now ?

Daffle Bodden, City Resident: “I don’t know what will happen now because now I have to go climb back over the rock how will I get to work? I have to climb back over the rock again ? Then when we Belizean people go lawless they holler “Oh we don’t love each other. We’re killing each other.” but then you see the reason why we’re killing each other ? Because no love. And if they are the bigger heads out here and they don’t have love towards us what do you think will happen ?”

Dale McDougall, Love News: However the men women and children who live in the area tell us that they want a peaceful solution to the situation but they’re willing to fight if they have to.

Daffle Bodden, City Resident: “So when I come from work seven o’clock this morning after I done worked my night shift I went home to sleep. One phone call woke me just now and said hurry take out your vehicle because they are locking off the spot when I reached out here the spot was already locked off now my vehicle won’t come out. I use my vehicle to take myself to work and take my children to school so how will they reach now and these times it’s raining. Come on we need some love from the people too. They want our love you need to give us back your love too same way. Because if we go on bad now and – it’s not that we can’t get rid of it miss, we can, but we don’t need to go violent. We don’t need to go violent because we can. And everybody knows one ay how to move it, just like how they put it.”

Dale McDougall, Love News: Charles was out there the entire time the boulders were being placed at the entrance of the makeshift road but he declined and on camera interview. However he did tell us that he is within his rights to cordon off the area and did give the squatters notice that he would have been doing this. He was able to do so with the support of members of the police department. However for the families that live back in the area they need a resolution and fast. The tactics they perceive as high handed and unfair is costing them their lives and their livelihoods.”

Just after five o’clock this evening, Deputy Mayor Allan Pollard stepped in to appease the situation. The boulders were removed and according to Pollard he was only made aware when he was passing the area.

Allan Pollard, Deputy Mayor:We were unaware of the situation out here and I saw the people piling up and then one of my voters who actually lives in the area her vehicle was parked behind the boulders and she was telling me that she can’t go to work these guys just put up these boulders today and you know knowing that the vehicles are on the inside and have to come out. And I mean to me it’s just – I don’t know situation if it’s private property or what it’s alleging that it is but there’s a way you do things. I believe that these people have their families here, at the end of the day nobody wants to live in anarchy but there is a way to treat people, there is a way to go about proper procedures, don’t just put an entire wall here and saying that you can’t get your vehicle out, you can’t get your family out or worse go in back. I mean we have to be reasonable as Belizeans. All of us are people at the end of the day we have to treat people the way we want people to treat us. It’s annoying to see something like that from my perspective and this is not the council’s position but my personal position that I don’t believe that we should treat people this way. These people have to work. They go about their lives, they have families, give them a reasonable time to take out their belongings this is all I’m saying.”

Reporter: Yeah but then this has been a long standing issue. We have dozens of families back here essential squatting on lands that they do not own. How do you fix that issue because even though they get their vehicles out they still need this access point. 

Allan Pollard, Deputy Mayor: “And that’s where communication has to be in place. Because from my understanding, and I know this because the Mayor has made me aware of the matter, there is a committee together from the government’s side who is looking at the issue of squatting, what will be the solution and how will they go about doing it but this is a bigger issue. This is not an issue that one private owner can take upon himself to fix this issue. As you rightfully said this is happening for years and it’s dozens of families so let us do the proper way, let us do it the proper way finding solutions too this issue and getting the people out of the place correctly. I don’t agree with squatting, I agree with applying to the Ministry of Natural Resources the proper way and I am all for that. I am all for private land owners to have their full privileges of the private property but at the end of the day this is a wide issue, it’s a large issue and it’s affecting dozens of families and there are way too many people involved for you to take it in your hands to just do something like that. I am not in agreement with that any at all.”

Reporter: How then do you proceed to address an issue like this because these boulders were placed here, I saw you move them or had them moved. 

Allan Pollard, Deputy Mayor: “Let me be clear. The only reason I moved them was because the young lady needed to get out, she needed to go to work, she has her family. She’s a Belizean, she’s a voter you understand ? So I made it my mission to assist in that regard. If tomorrow comes and he wants to put the boulder listen to me you and the authorities deal with that but for right now these people needed to get out.”

Deputy Mayor Pollard went on to say that he has advised businessmen, Jack Charles to follow the proper procedures in getting the squatters off his land.

Allan Pollard, Deputy Mayor: “Like I explained to him and I told him come to the council because this is a planning issue, come to the council listen ‘I have plans to develop my area I want these people off of the property.’ or go to the Ministry of Natural Resources tell the ministry I want these people off of my property I have my property but come to somebody. Don’t just come bring a crane and a cement wall and build it and feel like that is the appropriate way when you have dozens of kids, mothers, you have dozens of people here. I am not in agreement with that. I do not support squatting, I do not support any of that. I support doing things the proper way and doing things the proper way means that the people who are living in the area have to find the proper ways to establish themselves and the private property owner needs to find the proper way of alleviating this issue and that’s my position.”

Reporter: How did he respond to your conversation just now ?

Allan Pollard, Deputy Mayor: “Not so well but I know him. I have nothing personal- this is nothing personal and I know his sentiments as a private owner I could understand that but my issue and my fundamental issue is the way which we go about doing things and that is it. It’s nothing more, it’s nothing bigger than that it’s just doing things the proper way especially when there are people involved, people who I know personally I know some of the – Miss Lady vote for me understand ? She is one of my voters that is why she came to me and said Allan I need to get my vehicle out. You understand ? My thing is just basic human decency.”

We will bring you an update on this story in tomorrow’s newscast