BELIZE CITY, Mon. Apr. 20, 2015–It caused a scene this morning when a group of police officers gathered on the basketball court that is located behind the Charles Bartlett Hyde building in the Lake Independence area of Belize City.
The officers, who included at least two top brass officials, were called out to mediate a situation involving three-time People’s United Party (PUP) Lake Independence area representative, Cordel Hyde, and several Lake Independence residents who wanted to ensure that a building that once served as the offices of the Lake-I Action Committee would not be torn down, allegedly by agents of the current area representative, Hon. Mark King.
The said committee was formed years ago through the efforts of Hyde, the current PUP standard-bearer for Lake Independence, and his committee members who obtained the 50-by-70-foot property from the Government of Belize (GOB) on June 12, 2007.
Hyde, who stood near the building in the company of a number of area residents who were in opposition to the demolition attempt, told us that one of the main reasons for their stance is that the structure is located on private property which was legitimately acquired and that there are documents to prove it.
He said, “We got word late last night that the area representative for Lake Independence was sending a crew here to break down this building [which] is the private property of the Lake Independence Action Committee. It was bought from the government in 2007 for $20,000 – monies that the committee worked very hard to raise, selling barbecues and turkey dinners almost every week during that time to pay.”
The building is now unoccupied following a case of arson that destroyed much of the structure in October of 2011, five months before the 2012 general elections; however, documents furnished by Hyde showed that the Ministry of Finance had been paid in full for the land on which the building stands.
As a result, area residents who heard that there were plans by the present area representative to move in on the property, came out to stop the planned demolition of the building.
“It seems that plan was to come here [and demolish the building] this morning, [but] people from the neighborhood got wind of that, came here and said, ‘well that can’t happen, we know who own this place’ – because when the UDP had won in 2008, they had come and tried to get the place, and then they found out that it’s private property and they rest themselves, so I don’t know if the area rep got the memo or is playing like he didn’t get the memo, but according to the information we had, they were going to come at 10:30 a.m. to break up the place,” said Hyde.
Before the men could have gotten to work, however, they were halted by the obstinate residents who kept guard on the grounds, while Hyde shared the documents for the land with the police officers present, including the letter from the Ministry of Finance outlining the payment strategy and a copy of the receipt for the $20,000 that had been paid to acquire the land.
Additionally, Hyde would furnish a letter from the Ministry of Natural Resources, addressed to the Lake Independence Action Committee, dated July 2, 2007, in which the Lands Commissioner informed the Committee to pick up the title for the land at the Land Titles Unit in Belmopan – a little over two weeks after the Committee had paid GOB for the land.
“We’re just here making sure that – you can’t just go on people’s private property and just bully your way through; it doesn’t work like that. He [King] was so eager to protect the Chinese man’s interest last week, they relocated people all the way to Cotton Tree, and then they want to come and strong our little 50-by-75-foot land. The [Asian] man had 6 acres in Belize City…regardless of what project you want to do or how good it sounds, this place has lots of land; do things the right way”, Hyde emphasized.
When asked whether the attempted demolition may be seen as a political move on the part of his opponent, Hyde replied, “I don’t really pay attention to the UDP candidate for Lake Independence, I really don’t. I focus on the things that we have to do and focus on trying to continue doing the things we’ve been doing for all these years in this division. We don’t pay attention to who’s the opponent; we just continue do what we do.”
Our attempts to contact Hon. King for his comments – including visiting his office, calling and sending a text message to his phone – have all been unsuccessful.