In December, we told you about the Statutory Instrument which the
Briceno Administration passed shortly after taking office. That's the
one to block the electronic payment for land transactions to the bank
account for the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Deputy Prime Minister Cordel Hyde told 7News that this was done so that
he and his team could investigate any last-minute hustling at the Lands
Department before the PUP won the General Elections. But, there was
public speculation that it was actually done to prevent would-be
landowners from finalizing any land transactions they entered into with
the outgoing Barrow Government.
Some of those aggrieved Belizeans sought legal assistance from Attorney
OJ Elrington's law firm to apply pressure to the Ministry on their
behalf. And tonight, Elrington is reporting that he has successfully
intervened on behalf of over 15 hundred applicants to get their land
We've seen a letter from Talbert Brackett, the new Commissioner of
Lands And Surveys, dated February 25th, 2021. It says, quote,
"â€¦ Please be advised that your clients can formally proceed to make
payments at any of our offices."
Today, we spoke via Zoom teleconference with Elrington about these
successful interventions. Here's what he told us about the process of
getting his clients' accounts at the Lands Department unblocked:
Orson "OJ" Elrington - Attorney
"There are two things here. There is the SI, which you know was passed,
which indeed disallows persons from being able to do online payments.
That's one thing. But, I believe outside of that, and more importantly, was
a blocking of the accounts, basically, a hold, which prevented - or which
still prevents persons from being able to make payments for land that was
distributed by the last administration. That is still a problem that
exists, however, as I had expressed to the media, I will be honest and stay
when the Government at least making a step in the right direction. And
indeed, with the unlocking - whenever we have written to them, and brought
it to their attention, that clients want to make payments toward their
accounts, they have unlocked them. And the last batch, as you just stated,
was over 1500, and I receive that letter, I believe, last week."
"Was there any explanation given to you or your law firm as to why this was
Orson "OJ" Elrington
"No, no explanation was provided to us. I think that they had made a public
declaration that the reason that they were doing so was to conduct
investigations into the validity of the issuing of these accounts. And so,
that is the only thing that we have to go by. But, again, there was no
legal reason for them to be able to block the accounts, and that was our
legal position. That continues to be our legal position. To my knowledge,
the vast majority of them are first-time landowners. I can't say if every
single one of them is a first-time landowner, but I can tell for a fact
that the vast majority of them are first-time landowners. Everything
person, obviously, is ecstatic. A piece of land is your tool of
transformation. It is generational wealth. It is something that can change
the lives of individuals."
Elrington tells us that he is still receiving requests from other
aggrieved Belizeans who are seeking his legal assistance.