Belize
This article was added by the user . TheWorldNews is not responsible for the content of the platform.

Controversy Erupts Over Land in Hopkins Village

Mar 15, 2023

Controversy Erupts Over Land in Hopkins Village

There is controversy over a ten-acre parcel of land on the northern end of Hopkins Village. It all started when a few of the residents discovered that the lands, on which sits an old cemetery, are no longer public property but had been sold off to private investors some years ago. Now, the people want the land to be reclaimed and declared crown land. News Five’s Marion Ali went south to Hopkins today and filed this report.

Marion Ali, Reporting
This prime piece of real estate is the cause of a rift between residents of Hopkins Village and private developers who purchased parcels of the land.

Orlando Augustine

Orlando Augustine, Former Chairman, Hopkins Village
“We have dispute over that area from 2008, that’s a cemetery area. That land was owned by the people of Hopkins and that was the said land where our ancestors used to bury their dead from New Town. The fact is that Newtown was established in the 1800’s, but the people of Newtown were not allowed to intern or bury their dead in Newtown. So they took their dead in to Hopkins, an area we call Hawaii. That is where they buried the dead. That entire area is known as the Hopkins Cemetery.”

Former Chairman of Hopkins Village, Orlando Augustine told News Five that the plot of land changed ownership from as far back as 2007.

Orlando Augustine
“Hopkins Harbour took over that land and Hopkins Harbour – I don’t know where it is right now, it’s dismantled or dysfunctional right now – they decided to sell the land. They bought that area, from whom I don’t know, I can say from the government, not from us. But there was an M.O.U signed by Hopkins Harbour in 2008. In that M. O.U, they were to do certain things in Hopkins during that time in lieu of the land, but that didn’t settle because one of the things that we decided was that ten acres of that land was to be called Newtown Memorial Park. That Hopkins Memorial Park was designated as an area where you just recreate. No one was allowed to build there.”

The land was parceled off and sold to a few developers. Augustine says that even though he was the chairman of the village at the time, he knew nothing about it.

Orlando Augustine

“It was 2019, the entire area was surveyed without our knowledge. I was the chairman at that time. I did not know anything about the survey because of the bureaucracy of the system. That’s the way the system works. In this entire community they can do what they want without even informing the village council. That’s what caused this problem. So they the area and have into different blocks and different persons owning different parcels of the land.”

Emilio Basilio Zabaneh explained to us how he managed to acquire a one point two-acre portion from an employee who had leased it several years ago. His piece of land is nowhere near the cemetery and he says he has no issue with people going to enjoy themselves on the beach in front of his land.

Voice of: Emilio Basilio Zabaneh, Businessman

“It was a friend of mine that came and offered me this property. He had a lease on it, he had already got the purchase on it and I got the purchase and transferred the titles in my name. I think the practice was that the chairman had to put his signature on any land that was recommended. Any land, the chairman had to have his approval. I thought it was a great practice. I looked at it as an opportunity. I saw we had big developments in the area to develop the whole area. I knew the two developers in the area and I thought it would have been a great opportunity for me to look at it as an opportunity to develop the whole area. Actually all this property belongs to these foreign investors. They have their titles on these properties and I thought it would be a great opportunity because I am right in that area there.”

Marion Ali

“Do you have an issue with people from the village going to…”

Voice of: Emilio Basilio Zabaneh

“Absolutely not. Look ya, I own twenty-three acres of beach property in Dangriga, and you should see what that place look like on a Sunday. Mr Zabaneh get up every Monday morning with ih crew and clean up wa mess out deh. It’s unbelievable. So I have no problem for sixty-six feet for the access of the public. That’s in the laws of this country.”

But the villagers are upset and they want back the ten acres as public property.

This Facebook post by Macario Augustine Senior depicts a villager confronting a representative for one of the developers. In it, the villager speaks about the cemetery, and chastises the person, who clearly is a foreigner. Augustine explains that because of the historical significance of the area, the villagers want it back. He suggests that the developers and the current village council meet to discuss the matter.

Orlando Augustine

“The bottom line is the entire was a cemetery. That’s the bottom line you know. So even if it has been cut into pieces, whatever, initially it’s a cemetery. That’s the bottom line there. It was a cemetery because people were buried there. Let them get together, discuss what is the way forward. I don’t know what is the intention of those guys to build.”

Zabaneh says he is willing to sit down and negotiate.

Voice of: Emilio Basilio Zabaneh

“I’m a reasonable guy. Let’s sit down, be honest. I have given up a lot for people. This is not in me. I mean, what is the purpose you want the property for? If it’s something substantial everybody wa have to give up something out here. They’ll have to give up road access. They will have to give u- nuh only me wa have to give up.”

Marion Ali

“The road that is there now, whose is it?”

Voice of: Emilio Basilio Zabaneh

“That’s actually for the developers here, private property. But what could be a more substantial investment here where people are employed.”

Marion Ali for News Five.