Belama land case involving ex-CEO in court

By Aaron Humes Freelance Reporter

Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin is to decide whether an injunction he placed at the end of December on activity at Block 16, Parcel No. 2127, located at the corner of Albert Hoy Avenue and Chetumal Street in the Belama Phase I area, is to be lifted or continued next week Tuesday.
Arguments for and against the lifting of the injunction were heard in chambers today, with Vanessa Retreage appearing for defendants, former CEO in the Ministry of Natural Resources Beverly Castillo and her mother, retired educator Maud Williams and Magali Perdomo for the Ministry of Natural Resources.
Attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd represented the claimant, Bernadette Pickwood, a Belizean-American whose lease on the land was removed by the Ministry last November.
The Ministry argues that Pickwood, who received the lease for 30 years beginning in 1993, was to have two conditions fulfilled: it must have been occupied within six months of the grant and a building worth at least $45,000 must have been constructed within another three years.
Neither was fulfilled, it said, as despite Pickwood obtaining a mortgage for development of the land through Belize Bank in 1995, no such development occurred, despite two warnings sent in January and April of 1995 by letter.
While there was payment to the City Council for property tax, that is separate and distinguishable from rent payment.
Williams is accused of ensuring that the prime property was transferred to Mrs. Williams and her son, Mervin Castillo, within days of the cancellation of the Pickwood lease.
After arguments, Matura-Shepherd said that contrary to the arguments of the Ministry that it was her client that should have disclosed knowledge of any title granted to Williams/Castillo, her client did not know of such title until they received the response of the Ministry and the defendants last week.
The other prong of the argument was that if Pickwood was aggrieved she is entitled to compensation other than keeping the land, but she is not so entitled because procedure was followed.
Matura-Shepherd said that it is law that there is a mechanism in place to ensure that one is properly heard where there is a breach of procedure suspected.
Matura-Shepherd added, “We’re saying that money compensation will not suffice. Money compensation cannot suffice because we will then lose the very land we want, but not only that, money cannot compensate for all the breaches of the law against your rights. No money can remedy that.”
Ms. Pickwood’s brother, Bernard, told reporters, “Definitely, it is not [a] good feeling for us to have to go to this level to seek the justice that we think is due to us.
“It is definitely a cost to us that we think we should not have to incur … even the ministry has granted that they made an error in not following the procedure of law…I think it is clear cut that they could have just corrected that error and just have given them another option”.
Mr. Pickwood told Reporter that apart from the incidents with Belize Water Services and another contractor who visited the property to install services, the injunction has been respected.

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