On Friday we told you that about the latest standoff between the BGYEA, and the Government. BGYEA says that they were trying to abide by court-ordered mediation while the Government representatives were flouting the court's order.
Both sides went back to the court this morning where Justice Abel told both sides to try mediation once again.
It's supposed to be a cost-effective and efficient way of dealing with legal disputes, but BGYEA says that it is not working as intended. Their attorney explained outside of court what happened in Today's hearing before Justice Abel:
Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Attorney for BGYEA
"We are still back at mediation. In July, a mediation was ordered, it was never carried through. 3rd of November, again mediation was ordered. There was, I would say, administrative setbacks not on the part of BGYEA. That order was never filed and so it was never complied with, the deadline was Friday gone. There's a lot of mix up that went on and definitely not on the part of BGYEA and their representative and so we had to come back to court today and tell the court where we are. And of course the court was disappointed, I mean two orders on mediation? However, both parties have agreed to still go to mediation. The only problem is in the interim, my clients are frustrated because time is just stretching out. For them, the reality is that many of live on the land and while the matter is in court, the grass is literally growing and you've heard what has been one of the challenge with Mr. Garnett and so, he is only one expressing that challenge, there are others expressing a similar challenge. Now the new deadline for mediation is that we are going to mediation by the 27th January and come back for pre-trial in February and that's 2015 we are talking about. It doesn't mean that in the next two weeks we can't go to mediation - we can. We have a new mediator appointed, agreed by consent."
"It is your opinion that the government is earnestly taking this mediation process at its worth? Are they putting their best foot forward?"
Audrey Matura-Shepherd, Attorney for BGYEA
"I can't really say yes, simply because, have you even seen any government official come to court one day? Why is it that you all always grab me and ask for an interview? Where is the government official for you all to interview and be accountable? Our leaders are to be accountable. When you take state's money to drag someone off to court and a small man at that, you all need to go ask them why aren't they here in court? So I can't assess it. I have to go by their attorneys and from my dealing with Mr. Hawke, I can see Me. Hawke does his job professionally and tries to do what is his duty. I can't hold him accountable beyond that because he takes instructions from his clients, the same way I take instructions from my clients."
And while the case inches towards resolution, the residents of Harmonyville say that the ban is causing 2 major inconveniences.
They explained it to us today:
David Barnett, Executive, BGYEA
"They plant cane in their buffer, they are sweating those people. What is wrong with us? We don't look good? What is the situation here? Other people can come and do whatever they want. We were never claiming the land per se, we want to take the land. We were going to use the land and make use of it. Right in that same area, people are building cement houses and they (government) were saying no permanent structure. BGYEA has not committed no crime. We actually were playing by their rules. Now this is what is happening. We need the country to notice what is going on here when the people are trying to do good."
Alan Garnett, Harmonyville Resident
"The problem that we are having right now is that burglars are coming to the place and steal from us and dodge us. The bush is so high you can't even see. From the road you can't see your property. I thought the buffer was design is such a way that they would keep it maintained and clean that we could see ahead the traffic and everything that are passing. Due to government not wanting us to clean the buffer, people are coming to interfere with my place and not only with my place, but with other neighbors as well. The grass is growing 5-6 feet and nobody is maintaining it. I don't know if I should maintain the buffer because it is directly in front of my property or if I should wait until they do something. The government doesn't look like they will do anything to help us alleviate this problem because we need to have infrastructure. We need to see the place develop. This is over 800 plus families we are talking about."
Nigel Petillo, President, BGYEA
"This land has to be maintained. This land has to get clean down. It's like the front page of this book, when are passing the highway right now, compared to the time when we had invested and cleaned that land, go look on that land right now how it looks, it's discouraging, it makes you as a Belizean when passing this area, this community and ask what is going on here. Leaving it in its natural state is not working. We're hoping that we could establish a grounds where they could understand why we wanted to utilize that land."
So, there is still no foreseeable end to the case, since it goes up until January 27, with a report back to Justice Abel scheduled for some time in February.
We should note that strictly speaking, it's not a ban; BGYEA and it's principals have given an undertaking not to conduct any activities in the buffer zone until this case is concluded in court.