It seems this sort of land issues have been going on for quite some time in BZ.
REPORT #439 October 2001
CAYE CAULKER LAND ISSUE
Produced by the Belize Development Trust
by Diane Auxillou Kuylen
In the past Belizean Crown Lands used to be administered mostly by the Minister of Lands, keeping the control higher up at GOB levels. While there was major corruption at this level, still there would be distributions from time to time at the local level; like when the portion of Caye Caulker from where "Cuz", Louis Sylvester had his house - to the Split was subdivided and allotted to Caye Caulker residents.
For those more familiar with Caye Caulker as it stands today, it would pretty much be from Rainbow Hotel (or Football Field Area) to the Split. At that time, allocating lots was like my Dad described it, numbers were placed in a hat, at a very public meeting, and one person was elected to pull a number out of that hat, the number would then signify the LOT # for the designated person they were picking a lot for at the time. This process continued until all lots were fairly allotted to the respective applicants.
This kind of open forum, and the idea of randomly picking a lot # was a FAIR way of doing things. This is not the case now. If you want to know who the applicants are, who has been selected to be worthy of a lot etc, you have to go dig it up yourself at the Lands Department, Like Wendy and Tina did last allocation, exposing the gross nepotism that has become the norm in these affairs to date.
What are to be public affairs, distribution of lands, liquor licenses, public funds etc. - have now become hidden affairs. A specific set of rules as to how the selection is made, who qualifies, reasons why others donĖt qualify don't exist, except in the minds of those selecting; to justify their own bleeding conscience.
The current Caye Caulker Lots Committee comprises of only 3 people, Fermin Marin: Chairman Caye Caulker Village Council, Hon. Patty Arceo: Area Representative, and hand picked Mrs. Catalina Rosado (the innocent fall guy in this case!) She gets to sign the receipts, no one else, no stamp. SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!
These lands are used as lobbying fields for our officials; eg. If Hon. Cordel Hyde wants a piece of land in Caye Caulker, he needs to give us a School (as he is Minister of Education), etc.
Or, a certain "Doctor" in the Belmopan area (not a Belizean) who has been down to wine and dine the local officials, may qualify because he has "offered to contribute voluntary service" to the people of Caye Caulker whenever the need arises, in exchange for 2 pieces of Caye Caulker property on the North Side (but the "real deal" is not exposed). Village Council Chairman, Fermin Marin and past chairman, Emmanuel Rodriguez qualify, not just for a residential lot but for the lots designated to be North Side, Beachfront PARKS for the people, with measurements much bigger than those allotted as residential and commercial lots for individuals!
While my mother, Ilna Alamina - Auxillou, currently sits on almost every committee on the island as a voluntary servant to the people, as she has throughout her life (she is a few months short of 70 years old!), apart from being an educator on this island since she was 14 years old! - amounting to a lifetime of service! Yet, neither she nor her children "qualify" for any lots since the public selection stopped.
Now to get back to the distribution of land (lease vs title); a lease is a lease is a lease. It is nothing or it can be something, depending on the government of the day. Indeed I currently have lease documents in my possession, distributed by the UDP government that has no value today. Why you ask? Well, IĖve been told that the leases I hold are for lands that actually belong to someone else! Now if that land belonged to someone else BEFORE they gave me a lease, or after the present government came into power and re-distributed or "un-did" what the other GOB "did" is something I have yet to find out! Though it is hard to get a straight answer from anyone; short of holding them at "gunpoint" and demanding they open the "books".
A TITLE is one you own outright. The GOB can no longer take it away from you, unless you donĖt pay your taxes for an extended period of time.
So to get to the point of Caye Caulker and the current land scandal, it is true that they are charging $7,000.00 BZ for a piece of crown lease land. The price was actually $12,000.00 BZ, but people made a fuss and so they reduced it to $7,000.00 BZ, claiming that the $12,000.00 would have been titled lands. So, I ask, who is going to guarantee that the lease anyone has paid $7,000.00 BZ for is worth something, anything other than the ink and name of the "fall guy" written on an ordinary receipt with no stamp or signature of any government official whatsoever? Who is to be held accountable? Mrs. Cat? While those in power run off with the loot?
This new government changed things up a bit and allowed the Area Representatives to have "jurisdiction" (so to speak) over the lands in their areas. The Lands Department now works "on the recommendation of the Area Representative". This could have been a good thing if the Area Representatives did not feel that this power invested in them meant that they "owned" the lands or funds belonging to the people of Belize and can use it to fill their pockets, finance their political campaigns etc.
Instead, my friend, what we have is a gross injustice. In fact, I would call it an outright RAPE of the people!
I CALL FOR AN AUDIT OF LANDS, MONIES, DONATIONS, RELIEF FUNDS, PROGRAMS FUNDED BY CENTRAL GOVERNMENT (beach reclamation, hurricane relief, re-planting & infrastructure) AND THE CAYE CAULKER VILLAGE COUNCIL!
WE THE PEOPLE DEMAND THE FREEDOM TO KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON IN OUR GOVERNMENT!
"When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." Thomas Jefferson
PS. The above quote by TJ, found at the bottom of Richard's contributions to the List Serve, becomes more and more significant in my mind and heart with each passing day. I am one of those people described by Hon. Jorge Espat: "Exclusion and helplessness have done their work on the faces of Belizeans. A volcano of anger swells in the blood of many of our people." Diane