vlcsnap-2013-05-15-19h55m13s91While all eyes have been on Noh Mul, or at least what’s left of it, there is another regarded Mayan Site in the country that suffered damage by the hands of developers.  Parcels #7139 and #7140 in the Mountain View Area of Belmopan, were set aside as “Special Develop Areas” by the prior administration of both the City Council (2000-2006) and RECONDEV (2000-2008), due to the discovery of a very large concentration of Mayan Mounds and Mayan grave sites. At that time, City Hall and RECONDEV intended to develop a tourism site for the city. They had reached an investment deal with Mountain View Art Park Ltd, that would see the development and preservation of the land. But that plan didn’t materialize and soon thereafter, the archeological heritage was portioned off, sold and cleared for private use. PlusNews today sat down with the former Mayor of Belmopan, Anthony Chanona; Chanona was the Mayor during the time which the ancient Mayan site was red taped.

Anthony Chanona – Former Mayor of Belmopan:
vlcsnap-2013-05-15-19h55m01s233I would say during the tenure of office, one of the things that frustrated the investors, whether rightly so or wrongly so, or by design, the investors had tremendous (I call them red-tape, bureaucratic) hurdles to cross, painstakingly clearing the land only with machetes.  Everyone from the Archeological Department knew what was happening there, and had their eyes on the development.  So it took very long.  The investors got a little impatient.  There was a restructuring of the company of the investors.   So we left it with the vision, but not fully developed.

By 2012, the new City Hall and RECONDEV management took over and negotiated the terms and conditions of the lease legally held by Mountain View Art Park Ltd. The Board of Directors then brokered a deal with the investment company and reclaimed the 50 acre Parcel #7139 from the company. RECONDEV further subdivided the land into eight parcels and placed them on the market. According to Chanona, one of those parcels was further subdivided by its new owner and sold to varied investors. And Chanona says, those investors wasted no time in bulldozing roads and destroying the area.

Anthony Chanona – Former Mayor of Belmopan:
We came out of office in 2006. So in 2012 there was a completely different administration. That would be the administration of Mayor Lopez, and the administration, I think, of Mr Ramon Witz at RECONDEV.  So what the letter was referring to was the rules set out by the department of Archeology. Mr Williams, in my opinion, completely side-stepped all their rules of how to develop a special developed area like those parcels in question.  Those rules were: no mechanization, and submitting EIA, and submitting your development plans to a competent authority like NICH, the department of the Environment, like the Belmopan City Council, to be able to have the oversight agencies police what you are going to do with your newly acquired 21 acres. remember this land was acquired from the previous investors, who had to do all those things.  So I felt that the roll-out of these protocols would apply to one as it would apply to the other.  And i saw Mr Williams operate in complete disregard to those protocols. That’s what got me motivated to do something about it.

Well, we visited the area today and “no entry” warnings and “private property” notices. The former Mayor went on to tell us about more private development in the area.

Anthony Chanona – Former Mayor of Belmopan:
vlcsnap-2013-05-15-19h55m41s121Oh, yeah. They’re still there.  There’s a bulldozer road in the middle of them. When I went there, my wife and I picked up pieces of pottery, as evidence of what is there.  At the time we went there was no house.  There is now a house.  I would suspect there’s a yard.  There’s the domain.  I think that investor bought 7.3 acres of land.  That’s the private ownership of that individual, in that special developed area. Then there are others. Other persons have bought two acres.  Other persons have bought one acre.  There’s a complete sub-division that Mr Dean Williams did after he got his 21 acres, cut it up and sold.  That in itself even raised issues of the Land Utilization Authority, who required that certain infrastructure be put in place.  The Belmopan City Council requires certain infrastructure to be in place before you are given a building permit. Well there is none, and yet there is all these constructions on the sites.

Now these lands have lawful title holders, so there’s not much that can be done at this point, but moving forward, Chanona, says that the Government, as well as the public, must make certain that Belize’s archeological heritage be entirely protected and preserved.

Anthony Chanona – Former Mayor of Belmopan:
I would only like to say that, and i will repeat, Public Office is a tremendous privilege of serving the public.  That was a mantra of Mr Price, “Serve the people.” Whether you’re a PUP or UDP, the fact remains the people of Belize are the owners of our country, and the owners of our heritage, and anyone who is given the privilege of office has to be held for their actions.  As a people it is an indictment on us whenever we see these things that are wrong in our society, but maybe for fear of losing a privilege, or our jobs, we are covered into not saying anything, and this promotes corruption.  We have to do something about that as a society, and these are just symptoms of the problem.  We have to be held accountable to our laws, and not roughshod the ones we choose to ignore, and them make a big issue of the ones that are seemingly violated by an ordinary citizen. we have to have these laws across the board.

In a two page letter, Chanona chronicled his concern and unease with the destruction of what is perhaps the Capital City’s only known Mayan site. This letter was written in April of 2012 and addressed to the Assistant Commissioner of the Archaeology Department Dr. John Morris. Chanona says that nothing became of his efforts. We attempted to contact Dr. Morris for comment today, but were unsuccessful.