Letter to the Editor: From the Caye Caulker Village Council

Friday, July 20th, 2018

Dear Editor,
The Caye Caulker Village Council would like to make several clarifications to inform the public of the ongoing issues being faced by the Caye Caulker Village Council.

The Caye Caulker Village Council first realized that they were faced with issues within the Transport Department immediately after being sworn into office. Upon entering office, the Caye Caulker Village Council was informed that two members of the Council and one member appointed by the Minister of Transport would become the only sitting residents of Caye Caulker on the Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committee. This directive was done through a letter to both previous sitting members on November 1, 2016. The Caye Caulker Village Council expressed its grave dissatisfaction with this decision made and since the Council believed that there are very capable members of the Caye Caulker Community that could sit on this board.

The Council also stated that having members from our own community would benefit the Caye Caulker Traffic Committee as these members would be in a better position to partake in discussions of traffic issues because they live on the island and are familiar with the effect the traffic congestion can have on our small island. In addition, these members would be in the best position to preserve our “go slow” atmosphere on Caye Caulker.

On January 5, 2017, Hon. Minister Edmond Castro along with the three new persons whom he appointed to sit on the Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committee met with the two members of the Caye Caulker Village Council that were now sitting members of the same Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committee. During this meeting, the sitting members of the Caye Caulker Village Council reiterated the importance of having our very own Caye Caulker Community members sitting on the Traffic Committee. At the meeting, Hon. Castro promised to work with the Caye Caulker Village Council in a way forward to find solutions to our traffic issues. However, the Caye Caulker Village Council is still waiting for us to work in harmony for a better Caye Caulker.

A few months later, the same said Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committee, under the leadership of Mrs. Ruth Dawson granted permission for ATVs to be brought on the island. The Caye Caulker Village Council used all the powers vested in the Village Council Act to halt this action. One of the ATV was impounded and held at the Caye Caulker Village Council compound for a few days. Thereafter, the chairlady received several phone calls from various personnel from the Ministry of Transport to release the ATV. She was doing everything in her capacity as chairlady to avoid a first ATV on the island. The council was aware of the implications of this issue for years which other Caye Caulker Village Councils along with the previous locally appointed Caye Caulker Transport Committee had previously met and tried to delay such process, as these bodies did not see any need for ATVs on our 5-mile-long, sandy, street island. In several ways, like the big trucks, it is not conducive with laid-back feel Caye Caulker offers to residents and visitors.

In one of the traffic meetings held in San Pedro in March 2017, the Chairlady was handed a letter of ministerial discretion from Hon. Castro, stating that not one, but two, individuals were allowed to use their ATVs within the principal streets of Caye Caulker. After this incident, the chairlady went back to another meeting with the Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committee in San Pedro, where she voiced her discontent with this decision while the committee members acknowledge the ministerial discretion and stated that it was to be honored.

Time was elapsing, golf cart applications were piling up as meetings were scarcely being held and being rescheduled at the convenience of the Traffic Committee Members who did not reside on the island. At this point, several golf carts were seen driving around the island without any license plate and circulation sticker. In no part of the country of Belize, this is legal. The council convened at another meeting and unanimously decided to take matters into their own hands. Keep in mind at this point, several taxis, trucks, and golf carts were popping up on the island. These vehicular owners were saying they had gotten permission from the “Minister” without any proper documentation. The traffic situation was now in chaos leading to question the future of our go slow island; hence, the Caye Caulker Village Council decided some measure must be taken.

A meeting was held with the traffic wardens and San Pedro Traffic Officials, check points were set up and letters were issued to various individuals who were seen without license plates. As the local governing body of the community, the Council believed that this action was warranted. Several people came into the traffic office to pay for their license plate. This however, was also met with a backlash by some community members. Some of these individuals fail to realize that at the time, a member of the Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committee was carrying word of approval to people whose application was still not approved. In addition, these individuals never received any official documentation of such approvals despite getting word of approval from such member. Presently, some of these “approved” documentations have not been forthcoming to the Caye Caulker Traffic Control office. This irresponsible behavior created more havoc within the community and left locals to speculate as to what was really happening. To further clarify, many community members were only given verbal approval from “the Minister” and to present date, the Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committee has not gotten some of these individuals’ approvals.

Past Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committees have created a list of basic criteria that one must uphold in order for any community member to import a golf cart on the island. Many present vehicular owners own a vehicle and do not have a place to park it. The chairlady has tediously voiced her concern on this specific issue and many other issues at meetings she has attended, but it has fallen on deaf ears. To add to insult, the member that the Caye Caulker Village Council had appointed to be in the Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committee, received a letter early 2017, informing him that his appointment was revoked with immediate effect without any consideration for the decision the Council made. This member has shown his dedication towards the Traffic Committee and has worked with previous Traffic Control Committee members to find solutions to our Traffic Issues on this island. Therefore, the Council was infuriated when their appointed member had his post revoked. The Council only did as the law stated, which is that the Council can appoint a member to sit in the Traffic Control Committee, yet the Minister went ahead and revoked such a decision made by the Council without having any dialogue with the council.

The Caye Caulker Village Council was not content with these occurrences of the traffic affairs on the island, and at a meeting the Council unanimously decided to take the concern, among several others (use of 66ft reserve, pier building) to the Prime Minister of Belize. The meeting with the P.M. was set for July 25, 2017 and the small delegation attended the meeting on the said date. The P.M. made it known that in each Ministry, each Minister is fully capable of their ministries and he supports the decisions of his Ministers.

After this disheartening meeting, the Council convened at another meeting and decided to take matters into their own hands and decided to start to vet the traffic applications. The Council would deny the individual only, if they see the applicant was unable to comply with the basic criteria. We felt as though some progress would be made, as the approved applications came with strong support and recommendation from the Caye Caulker Village Council. The denials were those the council felt are not in compliance with the basic requirement of traffic laws of the island. After all, the purpose of a Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committee is to regulate and control traffic and to enhance and improve the environment, not to create congestion of traffic on the island and breaking of traffic laws. This however, was out of scope, according to the Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committee and they went and approved several of the denied applications the council had denied, and they denied some of the approved ones. The efforts of the Caye Caulker Village Council were futile.

At this point, the traffic issues for the Council are getting harder to manage as the Caye Caulker Traffic Committee has created more chaos than solution for our little island. The Caye Caulker Village Council discussed this issue at one of their meetings and a motion was pass to hold a meeting with a representative of local government to help facilitate the Caye Caulker Village Council in obtaining a meeting with the Minister of Transport along with Mrs. Meighn and Mrs. Dawson in order to further resolve traffic issues for our island. The local government representative stated that the date for the traffic meeting would be set for June 6, 2018. Upon arrival of the date, we were informed by the representative that the Ministry of Transport was hesitant to participate in any discussions with Caye Caulker Village Council.

This leaves the Caye Caulker Village Council with very limited options; the Caye Caulker Village Council has exhausted its options in trying to dialog with the officials of the Traffic Department and the Minister of Transport. The Caye Caulker Village Council deems itself as the governing body of the community, yet the island is being plagued with many issues as central government continues to make decisions without consultation of the local authorities and this has been occurring for years:

1) The Caye Caulker Village Council inquired with the Ministry of Natural Resources about the dredging that has been occurring on the west, behind north Caye Caulker since February of this year which the council obtained any royalties from such projects. Ministry of Natural Resources asked us to make reports on this issue. The council compiled all projects, so we can recover royalties, yet no response was brought forth by the Ministry of Natural Resources and we are still waiting on our royalties. Take note we have no contract with any of these company and are not getting the royalties that are required by law.

2) After the completion of the dredging, to our knowledge approximately 10 acres have been filled and distributed to members closely affiliated with a political party. The Caye Caulker Village Council met with the Minister of Natural Resources on issues pertaining to land distribution yet there was no clarification on land that would be able to be used for a landing area on the other side of the island. If there is land, what ramifications led to the Caye Caulker Village Council not being consulted? The Caye Caulker Village Council is ready to make recommendations for fair and just land distribution and we are aware there are many parcels of land that are being distributed without any consideration for land reservation for vital facilities such as poly clinics and schools.

3) The use of the 66 feet reserve as the law states, should be kept opened and free for access to the public at large. Many are being granted license to use and in loose terms “beautify” the reserve. With these licenses being granted and no recommendation given by the Council in support of the use of the 66ft reserve, Caye Caulker will soon be left without beach as many are deeming it private and are building on the beach which the Caye Caulker Village Council and general community disapproved of for simple reasons the beach should be for all to enjoy. Each license granted, clearly states its terms under which the beach area should be used, yet some are doing otherwise.

4) Many piers are being built, without any consideration for the law, yet the Minister of Natural Resources grants permission without any proper investigation and any input from the Caye Caulker Village Council. We have sent in numerous reports and details for each pier to respective departments, with little to no response.

5) Buildings are now being built four levels high, with approval from Central Building Authority. These commercial buildings have no proper parking lots, sewage system, proper drainage system, yet approved without any recommendation from the Caye Caulker Village Council, hence the community is left to wonder how these approvals are getting done. Presently, the Council was able to delay the building of a four story building, but a after a week, rubber stamp approval was given despite the efforts by the Council to revoke such decision.

6) Liquor Licenses continue to be issued despite the disapproval of the Caye Caulker Village Council and members of the community which have voiced their discontent.

7) Mangroves and other vegetation continue to be cut down without permits.

8) Golf cart rentals claim to have dealership license, which means these carts are for displaying purposes only, yet they are being used for rentals on a daily basis.

9) There continues to be an influx of trucks, golf carts and tractors as the appointed Caye Caulker Traffic Control Committee sees the island capable of taking in more traffic, even though the Caye Caulker Village Council have constantly express it’s disapproval.

Earlier this year, the Caye Caulker Village Council received a letter from the International Development Bank stating that Caye Caulker has been chosen, as one of the two islands in the Caribbean, to be a model “Go Green” island. This is of great stature for Caye Caulker. Unfortunately, with all these dilemmas the Caye Caulker Community is encountering and with very little autonomy the Caye Caulker Village Council now possess, it leaves to speculate the future of this “go slow” island. The Caye Caulker Village Council will not continue to sit in silence after we have exhausted our options to reach out for assistance from the different governmental departments, as we will not take blame when Caye Caulker has lost her identity from a “go slow” to a “cosmopolitan island”. The Caye Caulker Village Council realizes that visitors flock to Caye Caulker for the relaxing environment it offers, and we strive to preserve that which is left of it.

Caye Caulker is one of the second most sought-after destinations in the country of Belize. The Caye Caulker Village Council is beseeching the people in authority, our leaders and our Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow to launch a full investigation in all the events that have been occurring with Caye Caulker since 2016 to present. This Caye Caulker Village Council stands ready to work with any governmental body that is willing to assist in creating solutions. The Caye Caulker Village Council has a right to be a crucial factor to determine the future of our community and the faith of its people. Let us not forget that our island is the second most visited destination in Belize and as such generates its portion of revenues for our country’s economy. In order for Caye Caulker to be able to preserve our stature and our tourism product, we must be able to regulate and find solutions for many of these issues plaguing this “go slow” island.

Submitted on behalf of the Caye Caulker Village Council
Enelda Rosado – Caye Caulker Chairwoman

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