Several self-confessed Krooman Lagoon squatters were blocked from accessing their homes this week, until Belize City Deputy Mayor Allan Pollard intervened in the clash between the residents and landowner and businessman Jitendra “Jack Charles” Chawla.
Charles, with the ostensible backing of police officers, dispatched heavy machinery to the notoriously contested area to place huge cement boulders to block the residents’ ability to move in and out of the area as it can only be accessed through two parcels of land reportedly owned by Charles.
The landowner had seemingly warned the squatters of his intent to block the entrance. “He came last week and told us that he was going to lock off the spot, but he didn’t give us any day that he was going to come and lock it off,” said Daffel Bodden, a security guard and resident who has lived in the area for over five years.
Charles, who was at the site on Monday overseeing the construction of the fence, confirmed to the media that he was the owner of the two parcels of land, and, thus, believed he was free to do with them as he pleased. Charles even noted that he was kind enough to have warned residents of his plans to erect a fence.
Shortly after speaking with Charles and Bodden, Deputy Mayor of the Belize City Council Allan Pollard happened on the scene to check on the cause of the commotion. After having met with the residents, Pollard, who said that he was originally unaware of the situation, called for heavy machinery be brought into the location to remove the boulders.
“To me it’s unjustified,” Pollard said, while explaining his decision to the media. “I don’t know the situation—if it is private property or not—but I believe that there is a way that you do things. These people have their families here, and at the end of the day nobody wants to live in anarchy. There is a way of treating people and how you go about the proper procedures.”
While describing the residents’ plight of being unable to move their vehicles and other belongings in our out of the blocked off area, Pollard explained that his decision to intervene was a “personal one” and not necessarily that of the Belize City Council.
Pollard, who a seemingly irritated Charles had approached on the scene, said he advised Charles that he should have gone through the proper procedure and informed the council of his plans so that they could have stepped in and evacuated or informed the residents properly. Pollard said that he also notified Charles that because dozens of families were being impacted by his decision he could have thought it proper to involve the Ministry of Natural Resources so that an amicable solution could be reached instead of taking the route that he did.
“I am not in agreement with erecting a cement wall and blocking off dozens of families from their homes,” Pollard added. “Neither do I support squatting; I support doing things the proper way and that means that the people living in the area have to find the proper way to establish themselves and the private property owner needs to find the proper way of alleviating this issue. …This is a bigger issue, and is not something that one private landowner can take upon himself to fix because this has been happening for many years.”
Krooman Lagoon is located near 1.5 miles on the George Price Highway, and is reportedly occupied by approximately 200 residents, most who are said to be Belizeans.