As if we needed more troubles, to add to our precarious situation there has been an uptick in cases of Covid-19, and there are reports that many are not coming forward for their vaccines, and then, while thousands of Belizeans are scrambling for pennies, we learned that someone or a certain group got a jackpot — has/have been awarded more than five million dollars for their acquiring a piece of our land for a few days.
My colega, Paul Morgan, has told me that I’m not timely, and I have told him that I like to allow other parties to race ahead before I hib my two cents; however, I have pushed back one of the stale servings I had on the plate today to get in my shot with the front-runners on this one.
Attorney Michelle Trapp said on Krem Radio that judges rule on the evidence presented before them, the information in court, which means that we should focus more on these lawyers who are representing us.
According to the story, as reported by 7News, a group got 100-plus acres on the Turneffe Atoll for around $27,000 just prior to the 2008 general election. Shortly after the election, a new government took away the land with the promise to give the deprived group another parcel in compensation.
I think I heard Ms. Michelle say that the new government sold the Turneffe parcel to another party or parties, so it is of interest how much the land was sold for, and to whom. The deprived group took the matter to court, and this year, twelve years later, they got a very favorable ruling, whew, that their $27,000 had ballooned to over $5 million in compensation.
The 7News report said the minister in charge of lands told them the matter was with the Attorney General’s ministry, which would advise them if there are grounds for appeal.
On the legal side, years ago my late uncle, JV Hyde, a man who had considerable credentials in estate management, surveying, and economics, told me that Belize’s lawyers don’t know much about land law. Ah, if we look at medicine we find there are doctors who are general practitioners, and they know some of most everything about the human body, and there are specialists, doctors who have general knowledge and also know everything there is to be known about some specific body part.
It is the same in the field of agriculture, and in most every field, including the law. My, we keep going to court, and end up losing the people’s money. Are we sending general practitioners to do jobs that require specialist training?
We have to ask who represented the government in this case, and who all are representing or have represented our government in many similar cases. The people keep getting blown away over lands that have been in government control since we’ve been self-governing, and it might be that we are sending people to court who don’t know one préheh. How do we explain the government selling a piece of land today, another government taking it back two days later, and twelve years later the compensation is about 200 times what was paid? The land was taken back in 2008, and it was valued at $27,000 then.
There are some technicalities in the legal system, meaning from where we stand on the outside we don’t know if the case can be brought back to court. For the sake of our little coffers, we have to hope so, and when we do we must present a case that leads to the group that claimed the prize, getting what the people believe they deserve, which is what they paid for the land.
Governments in capitalist countries will favor persons and companies that have proven capacity to help grow the economy. That’s the way capitalism works. So, before we howl about this group getting the caye land, we need to know all the facts. The private sector doesn’t know the innards of the public sector, and vice-a-versa. Sometimes when the public sector hala wolf, da sheep.
I heard this caller to the WuB speaking about winning some power ball, a prize in a gambling game. Well, the entrepreneur who can help grow the economy in the capitalist system is like a power ball. The government bets on these people or companies, and just as in the gambling game, not every bet pays off, but when certain bets do there is a great prize. When there is a winner in the capitalist game wealth is created, people get jobs, taxes and other fees are paid, all are happy, and the party in power wins again. If you like capitalism, well, that’s how it works.
A large piece of caye land ends up in the hands of a group for a little bit of cash, and it is our right to know why. What we have every reason to let out a mighty big yell about is that without producing anything, they get a whopper of a settlement from the people’s purse.
It’s disturbing that our governments keep parceling out huge chunks of caye land. Our governments have been doing this for years, and my sense is that it isn’t sound. Back in the last century, when we were supposed to be a country with a mixed economy, a company named “Maya”, I think that’s the name, put up for sale a huge parcel, huge as caye land goes – I think it was thousands of acres – in the seaside areas we know as Riversdale and the Placencia peninsula. The deal was advertised in the newspapers for quite some time, and I kept wondering why our government didn’t acquire it.
The parcel this group held for a few days on Turneffe, we have to wonder what use was being contemplated for the 99% of it that is (or is it was?) under mangroves. If people were thinking of removing those mangroves and dredging in the sea to fill the land, we have to check our thinking.
I’m a little less rigid about mangroves close to shore. I see wiggle room for discussion about building new ports at Belize City, because those mud areas have the lowest populations of fish and corals — biodiversity. However, there has to be a discussion about how much cruise tourism we want. Hmm, I have heard that the one at Port Belize can’t make it in cruise tourism because of the sewer lagoon right next door.
We have to protect our mangroves. Our mangrove islands, they are like a popular politician. Those ones are an asset to all other candidates in their party, and so it is with mangroves. The economic value of mangroves far exceeds the considerable benefits they provide as hatcheries and nurseries for marine species, and as hurricane buffers. Everyone loves a country that protects its mangroves, and we get points for taking care of the Chiquibul and Colombia forests too.
UDP and land acquisition
There is a simple reason why countries like ours end up in bloody revolutions. We take too long to right wrongs. Bah, we already have our hands tied by people who own land from “slavery days”, and bah, our governments cannot reacquire land for a true public purpose.
The UDP had a certain manifesto pledge to address the serious matter of land acquisition. The UDP said our valuation system works to give big money to landowners when government needs to acquire parcels in the public interest, and the manifesto promise was to correct the mistake. Bah, in the same breath I said I liked it, I said I-noh-trust, because there is no way our country should have such a law if our government ministers insist on acting like they own our country.