By Benjamin Flowers
The Supreme Court this week gave another extension for the Government of Belize and the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA) to hold mediation talks to settle the dispute over the buffer zone surrounding the Harmonyville Community at mile 41 on the George Price Highway.
The parties met in the chambers of Justice Courtney Abel on Monday, where they were given until January 27 to settle the dispute using the court mediation system instead of taking the matter to full trial.
Members of BGYEA explained that the longer the issue goes without resolution, the more difficult things become for them. They complain that the bushes along the buffer zone are now so high that burglars use them to avoid being detected when they loot.
President of BGYEA, Nigel Petillo, told the media last week that he was disappointed at the government for not showing up for the mediation session, scheduled for Friday November 28. He described it as an act of bad faith on the government’s part.
While GOB has handed over the case to the law firm of Barrow and Williams, Nigel Hawke still appeared on the government’s behalf.
Hawke explained that reports of government being inexcusably absent from Friday’s mediation were untrue.
GOB was involved in a dispute in which a mediator would be used.
Hawke said that as far as the government is concerned, the dispute has been placed in the hands of a mediator who has been approved by the parties. The mediator will meet for mediation sessions before the deadline has expired.
In May, the Ministry of Natural Resources informed BGYEA that it would not permit the planting of corn in the buffer zone surrounding the community’s land because that buffer zone is government land and should remain in its natural state.
Following the notice, GOB filed an injunction against BGYEA and its president Nigel Petillo, to stop any activity in the buffer zone.
The Supreme Court later struck down the injunction because the government had failed to file the necessary documents relating to the injunction.
The court ordered mediation and gave a deadline of November 3, and that deadline was later extended to November 28 because the parties had not conducted any sessions before the deadline.
BGYEA is not claiming ownership over any part of the buffer zone, but BGYEA President, Nigel Petillo says the residents of the community are entitled to use this land to improve their economic situation.