In last nights newscast we featured the land controversy in Ranchito Village Corozal District. Tonite we tell you the story of another land controversy brewing in the north; this time in the village of Xaibe, just a short distance away from Ranchito. Louis Wade filed his report.
Louis Wade Jr. Plus TV Journalist
I was invited to Xaibe village, a beautiful and scenic rural community in the Corozal District; specifically Corozal North Constituency, to see another Land controversy that was brewing in the North. I sat down with Mr. Daniel Tzul, Chairman of Xaibe, to find out firsthand, what was happening. According to Tzul, On the 10th December of last year residents came to the Chairman of the village stating that surveyors were cutting lines in land that the village had identified and set apart for future expansion.
Daniel Tzul, Chairman, Xiabe Village Some villagers came to me about what is happening in the expansion area and they were asking me if I was aware of what was happening, because they have observed surveyors in the area doing surveying. I told them no, that I am not aware of it and no one has informed me. It doesn't matter who it is, the Lands Department or whatever, they should have come to me so that we can deal with the problem, but I wasn't informed. So I told the people that I would go into the area and investigate. When I went there, I didn't see any surveyors, but I saw that survey had been done.
A meeting with villagers was hastily organized whereby villagers agreed that the village council needed to be consulted before further work could be done in the village. The issue was made public on local television and as suddenly as the surveying started, it ended. Then In January of this year the surveying started again without the knowledge or consent of the village council.
Daniel Tzul In January, I was approached by the villagers again, saying that they had observed surveyors in the area again. I immediately went into the area and saw that surveying had begun. I believe it had begun only a week ago then. So I called another meeting with the area and they were not happy with it and they said that I should write letters to different ministries in charge of the area, namely the Natural Resources. So I wrote some letters and I sent them to Mr. Vega. I also sent a letter to Minister Martinez and the RCO Mr. Cruz.
Louis Wade Jr. Have they responded to those letters?
Daniel Tzul No. To make matter worst, people from Corozal were coming with documents which said they already owned lots in Xaibe.
Louis Wade Jr. So that's people in the Town? Because Xiabe is outside of Cozoral Town.
Daniel Tzul Yes, that is the Bay where Mr. Pablo Marin is in charge of.
Daniel Tzul When the thing got on TV, many people came into the area from different areas, even Libertad; they came to Xaibe requesting to know where the expansion area is, because they own a land in Xiabe. So the people said that we would not tolerate that and that we would take action. So I told them that if you would do that, I would be a hundred percent with you. So we decided that on the following day, we would go into the expansion area and everyone would take their own lots? Why? Because this is for Xabe.
Bypassing the Village Council, the then Cayo North Standard bearer for the UDP, Hugo Patt, and Corozal Bay representative, Hon. Pablo Marin, distributed the lots in the subdivision to residents from their subdivision. Chairman of Xaibe says that one of the reasons why residents are angry about the intrusion into their village by people from other communities and Corozal town, is that they themselves are in desperate need of land for their own families!
Daniel Tzul I would say about more than a hundred persons who already have children and already have a family do not own a lot. Some of them live on a small space in their fathers' land. So these were the people that were requesting the land and plus there were many youth that needed the land; they are over eighteen and right now cannot receive any land. There are even people who are forty years old and at the moment do not own a piece of land in the village of Xiabe.
The village council act Chapeter 88 Section 47C states that "before dealing with any lands in the village, the Ministry responsible for lands shall consult the council and take its views into account; and should the said Ministry decide not to follow the advice of the council it shall explain its reasons in writing to the council before effecting that decision, and provide the council further opportunity to present its case to the Ministry;"
Ignoring the Village Council and the substancial law did not sit well with Xaibe villagers. Tzu says that the villagers decided to enter the subdivision and redistribute the lands, without the Corozal Lands Department's approval.
Daniel Tzul About 5:30am, the people went into the area and they decided to chop the lots where the surveying had already begun. Close to General Elections, Mr. Hugo Patt was distributing some leases for these people.
Louis Wade Jr. These people as in from your village who cleared out the area?
Daniel Tzul No, his people, the people who were supporting him. So the people who went into the area were ignored and were not given anything. These people who went into the area and began to chop their lots, they are still clearing their lots, some of them have began to burn it already.
Clearly, with the pre-election distribution of land titles for the Xaibe Subdivision to residents in Corozal Town, and Xaibe villagers clearing and distributing those same lands another set of villagers, Xaibe is positioning itself for direct conflict with the current political directorate� unless cooler heads prevail.
Louis Wade Jr. Do you foresee a problem in Xiabe, when those people from the Bay want to make attempts on those lands and people from Xiabe want to make attempts on these lands too?
Daniel Tzul Yes, and there is a big problem.
Louis Wade Jr. What is your council's position? What is it that you would want the nation of Belize to know and what would you want the Government to do?
Daniel Tzul I would like for the Government to get leases for these people; these people who have cleared their lands because they deserve it. These people do not own a land at the moment and I would like the Government to give these people a lease. At the moment I have made some applications to follow the procedures. The people are signing and applying for the lots. So after that has been done, I will go through the procedure and present it to the Lands Department and then we will wait for a reply.
Louis Wade reporting for PlusNews.
Immediately following our newscast we will be re-airing our story on Ranchito