Wednesday, 08 February 2017
On Saturday the 4th
of February 2017 the Party Leader, the Hon. Johnny Briceño along with Major Lloyd Jones and the Belize Rural North team visited the beautiful villages of Maskall and Bomba along the “old road”. The visit started with a door to door in Spanish Town, Maskall. The Party Leader heard the concerns of residents in Spanish Town who amongst other things complained about the troubling land tenure situation, the lack of market access for their produce and the poor conditions of the farm roads in the area.
Residents of Spanish Town complained that despite their best efforts to normalize their land tenure they have been frustrated by the lack of compassion, concern and professionalism by some members of the Lands Department. The residents complained that they have been working their lands for many years and despite numerous trips to the Lands Department they have not been able to receive the proper documents to their land. Virtually all the residents that the Party Leader spoke with told stories of having their applications mysteriously “lost”. As if that wasn’t bad enough they had to repay all associated fees although the disappearance of their applications was not their fault. The residents are fearful that at anytime someone will show up with title to the lands and ask them to vacate the lands even though they have invested substantially in those lands.
In response to the concerns raised the Party Leader informed the residents that when he was the Minister of Lands he approved more than 65,000 titles and leases for average Belizeans. He assured residents that under his leadership as the next Prime Minister of Belize he will bring the Lands Department to the people. An innovative and visionary idea: the Lands Department will be deployed to each village to process their applications, provide GPS coordinates for sketches and conduct field visits and site inspections.
Many Belizeans may not know that a significant portion of the vegetables sold at the market in Belize City, Orange Walk and San Pedro are grown by the residents of Maskall and surrounding areas. The farmers lament that because there is no clear strategy by the Ministry of Agriculture regarding meeting the demand for fresh vegetables, there continues to be an oversupply leading to depressed prices: just $5 for a bucket of tomatoes, for example. The farmers explained that they simply cannot sustain their families at these prices and if the state of the market continues it will force them out of business. This is quite interesting because despite the clear ability of Belizean farmers to produce all the vegetables that we need, the Minister of Agriculture continues to grant import permits to UDP cronies to import vegetables. At a time when every single US dollar is needed to meet the current account deficit and to pay for Dean Barrow’s arrogant nationalization agenda, this very government is bleeding foreign exchange by importing vegetables that can be grown at home.
Another significant challenge for the residents of Spanish Town is the poor state of farm infrastructure. One resident explained that the slightest rain makes the farm roads impassable. If the farmers are not able to access their farms it can affect both planting and harvesting. The wear and tear on their vehicles and farm equipment is taking a toll on these hard working Belizeans and eat away at the already slim profit margins for their produce.
After the visit to Maskall the Party Leader headed to the beautiful village of Bomba where he was met by the Chairlady Mrs Ana Marilu Ramirez, who organized the visit. The entire village came out to meet the Party Leader. With the beautiful lagoon as a backdrop the Party Leader delivered a short message of hope. The PUP will win the next election he declared; and as the next Prime Minister he will ensure that Bomba gets the attention that it deserves.
The concerns of the residents of Bomba were similar to those of Maskall: no land tenure, no economic activity, and no support from NEMO after Hurricane Earl.
One resident informed the Party Leader that there is a sinister advertisement online at www.rainforestrealty.com
where a 12,000 acre parcel of land in Belize is being offered for sale at US$5,900,000. Incredibly the ad includes the village of Bomba as part of the 12,000 acres. Residents recalled that the late Rt. Hon. George Price had acquired 2,500 acres of land in the area for village expansion and now with this ad the residents are wondering how it is that they will find land for the youths.
On the economic side, the little tourism activity has dried up. About 2 years ago there was significant tourism activity in the village stimulated by the inflows from San Pedro through Bomba to Maruba, Altun Ha and Lamania. However the refusal of the Area Representative Edmond “Clear the Cane” Castro to properly maintain the navigability of the river and to dredge the bar mouth diverted much of that traffic to the Phillip Goldson Highway where the tourists are dropped off and then bussed into the division. This diversion has severely hit the pockets of residents of the area. Residents recalled that every year the Hon. Max Samuels would pay the youths to clear the banks of the river to assist with flood control and to ensure that vessels could traverse the river. He would also dredge the bar mouth to ensure that the vessels from San Pedro could get in to Bomba. Not “Clear the Cane”. In his 8 years as Area Representative he has only paid to have the river cleaned once and that was a disaster. He reportedly gave the job to a female relative of his for almost $9,000 and the job was, well let’s just say it was not properly done.
The Belize Rural North team was happy to have had the Party Leader visit with them and for his message of hope and solidarity. They hope to have him back soon to visit other villages in the constituency.
Que Viva Belize, Que Viva the PUP, Que Viva Johnny!