Denny responds to Noh Mul Destruction Print E-mail
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Friday, 17 May 2013 00:00

The remains of a 100-foot Mayan mound at Noh MulThe man at the center of the firestorm surrounding the destruction of a Maya mound at the Noh Mul site, Denny Grijalva, has issued a press release on the subject. Grijalva, the UDP’s Caretaker for Orange Walk Central issued the following press release:

“In light of the public reaction to excavation on a private property between the villages of San Pablo and San Juan in the Orange Walk district, as the Managing Director of De’ Mar’s Stone Company, the entity currently occupying center stage in this matter, it is my duty and indeed my obligation to inform the public, at home and abroad, of the sequence of events leading to this unfortunate incident.

De’ Mar’s was recently contracted to undertake the construction and rehabilitation of roads in Douglas Village also in the Orange Walk District. My understanding is that a first site for the excavation of material was identified by the company foreman. The Chairman of Douglas Village was reportedly not satisfied with the quality of the material and as such, he obtained permission from a landowner to extract material from his property from which material has been excavated for well over a decade.

De’ Mar’s excavation on the site began at around 8:00 am on Thursday, May 9th and continued up to 5:00 pm that day. Operations resumed the following day when at around 10:30 am persons identifying themselves as officials from the National Institute of History and Culture (NICH) reportedly appeared on the site accompanied by a crew from an Orange Walk Town-based television news station. The officials instructed the company foreman to halt operations informing that the site is of archaeological interest.

I was contacted by the Foreman seeking further orders, I instructed the foreman to immediately cease all operations and to shut down all the equipment including the excavator and trucks. The equipment was removed from the site at around 10:00 am the following day, Saturday, May 11th.

Recognizing that the buck stops at my desk, I share the public’s concern and indeed condemnation at the unfolding of this very unfortunate incident. While I will be launching an internal investigation, I am committed to fully cooperate with the authorities in their investigation into this regrettable incident.”

The statement comes after there was public outcry after a Noh Mul mound, reportedly, one of the tallest in the entire expanse of an 8-square mile area that was excavated to produce road fill material in nearby Douglas village. The story broke on Friday’s 7 News broadcast after which multiple organizations expressed public condemnation against the actions of the contractor. Among those expressing that sentiment was the Belize Tourism Industry Association and the Belize Tourism Board (BTB). The BTB in a release on Tuesday expressed that, “This total disregard for Belize’s cultural heritage and national patrimony is callous, ignorant and unforgivable”.

Minister of Natural Resources and Agriculture, Hon. Gaspar Vega has also issued a release in which he “condemns in the strongest possible terms the destruction of any archeology site in Belize. Minister Vega also emphatically repudiates the allegation and or perception that he was involved in any way with the destruction of the Noh Mul.”

The release goes one: “Like all Belizeans, Minister Vega is deeply committed to protecting and preserving our national heritage and patrimony for the benefit of present and future generations. As such, he is outraged by the wanton destruction of the Noh Mul archaeological site. Furthermore, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture who has responsibilities for issuing mining permits did not issue any such permits to mine materials from Noh Mul archeological site.”

Since the destruction of the Noh Mul mound, a criminal investigation has been launched to determine who will be held responsible for the destruction of the mound.

Under National Institute of Culture and History Act Chapter 331, Section 61-(1) “no person shall remove any earth or stone from any ancient monument except under a permit in the prescribed form issued by the Director. (3) Any persons who contravenes subsection (1) commits and offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months , or to both such fine and term of imprisonment.”

Section 62-(1) continues: “any person who (a) willfully damages, destroys or disturbs any ancient monument or in any way marks or defaces any ancient monument or (b) willfully removes any antiquity from any ancient monument or destroys any such antiquity, commits and offence.”

Authorities are now looking at the legal implications of the destruction of the Noh Mul mound and charges are expected to be laid.

Last week’s excavation and use of material for road works is not the  first instance that a mound has been used for such a purpose. As far back as the 1940’s, the mounds at Noh Mul have been used for this purpose. As recent as in June 1998, a similar instance of a mound being torn down for roadworks was detected. At the time, UDP aspirant for Orange Walk North had sounded advice to have the mounds properly demarcated to prevent a reoccurrence. That however, fell on deaf ears and history repeated itself.