Approximately 200 persons got their land applications approved to purchase lands in the Maxboro area of Sandhill Village, Belize District. This morning an official ceremony was held at the Mesopotamia Resource Center. As we have previously reported, the UDP Standard Bearer for Mesopotamia, Shyne Barrow, launched a land distribution programme to assist residents in acquiring land. According to the Lands Commissioner, Wilbert Vallejos, they have been identifying national land to give to first time owners since 2012.
Wilbert Vallejos, Commissioner of Lands and Surveys: “We have begun to identify national lands since maybe the year 2012 when we first had the first time land owners program where government wanted to allocate land for everybody countrywide and in trying to do so we were able to – or we had to identify those national lands that were still left behind because we found out that a lot of national lands around cities and villages and towns had been issued out years ago in big amounts so we tried to secure those lands so that when the need arises we will have them available for giving them out. In this instance we did not have to purchase the land from any private owner this is government land. There are instances however in other constituencies when the government has had to buy land from private owners. In certain instances we even do compulsory acquisitions to make lands available. The purchase prices of the land are $500 and it is at a very reduced rate. The Minister explained earlier that he’s considering the difficult times that Belizeans are facing and so once upon a time village lots were at $1,500 and they were reduced to $700 and now they have been further reduced to $500 and in repeating what he said government spends a lot of money in trying to make these lots available but many times it does not recover the cost of the expenses made.”
One of the issues that were raised when this programme was announced was whether the Sandhill Village Council was engaged in the discussion for land distribution within the village. According to Vallejos, the village councils are allowed to submit their own list of people to recommend for land applications.
Wilbert Vallejos, Commissioner of Lands and Surveys: “There are not properly defined boundaries of almost all the villages in the country except for maybe Santa Clara in the Corozal district and Western Paradise in the Belize district; every other community in this country does not have a boundary so it is very difficult for any council to say this is my jurisdiction in terms of council so that’s a start. The department makes applications, makes recommendations but nothing stops the village councils from making their recommendation if they’re in agreement or disagreement with an application being done. So Sandhill, where does it begin or where does it end? The last time I thought Sandhill began at the junction of Boom and the road going to Belize City and then it stretched all the way I don’t know where but I understand that for a while the Ministry of Local Government has been in the process of defining these boundaries so that village councils will know their jurisdictions. You can’t have a village expanding anywhere and everywhere and as long as that situation continues we will have this type of situation where nobody knows whose jurisdiction it is but the government at the end of the day is the owner of those lands and they can dispose of the lands.”
Barrow stated that he had to be determined and patient in order for this programme to be launched.
Shyne Barrow, Mesopotamia UDP Standard Bearer: “I never give up but certainly I’ve stood there for hours, five hours just sand up there and wait because I can’t go to the Lands Department and say “I dah Shyne Barrow.” and everybody will drop what they do. You know you have other ministers, other area representatives that are trying to look after the business of getting land for their people so it was an arduous task. I don’t want people to ever believe that – I heard people saying that this was some type of election stunt, this is some type of political stunt I’m up by 1,500 votes in Mesop. We won this division by 1,500, the ICJ was just won by a thousand but if you don’t want to go to ICJ just go to the books as to how the margin is in Mesop so even though I’m a new candidate and I’m not the lion Michael Finnegan we’re still up so I don’t have to give anybody a piece of land to vote for me. Before Nigel Petillo which I have no problem with his advocacy for land but before he said no land no vote I was already working on this two years ago because this is the right thing to do. My candidacy is not based on Quid Pro Quo “Well if you vote for me this is what I will do for you.” I want to be the area representative for this constituency do I have to serve and the best way to serve is to do, is to take action. My campaign is not “Oh well blame everything on Finnegan and tell them when I get elected I will do.” My campaign has been “That’s what you want I will do everything to make sure it happens.”