Police are also investigating the matter and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, the National Institute of Culture and History and the Belize Tourism Board have expressed outraged at the destruction of the Noh Mul archaeological site in the Orange Walk district.
Pictures broadcast on a local television network over the weekend showed the destruction of the Noh Mul site, which means Big Hill and the Institute of Archaeology has since launched an investigation into the destruction.
A government statement said that “this total disregard for Belize’s cultural heritage and national patrimony is callous, ignorant and unforgivable” adding that a “vigorous investigation has been launched to determine all the facts in this case”.
The government said that cultural landmarks, such as Noh Mul, should be protected at all cost and that “this expressed disdain for our laws and policies is incomprehensible”.
The main opposition People’s United Party (PUP) has also condemned the destruction of the archaeological site, which, according to local experts was one of the tallest Maya ruins in northern Belize.
PUP said “the demolition of ancient Maya temples is deplorable as these are not only important elements of our Belizean history and culture but an integral component of a developing tourism industry”.
The PUP expressed concern that the destruction of the Mayan temple will negatively impact the area’s tourism growth, with the long-lasting effects being diminished employment opportunities in the north and called on the government “ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and that the full extent of the law is applied”.
Chief archaeologist Dr. Jaime Awe told reporters that the penalty upon conviction for anyone who destroys an archaeological site to be a prison term of up to 10 years and or a fine of BZ$10,000 (One Belize dollar = US$0.49 cents).
The Citizens Organized for Liberty trough Action (COLA) in a strongly worded statement has described the destruction of the Noh Mul Maya site as “an obscene example of disrespect for the environment and history”.
It said it is “completely revolted” by the pictures of the massive destruction of the site and that it “shows no respect for the environment or for the historic perspective of Maya society and culture embodied by these monuments”.
The environmental group is calling on the government to take action against those responsible for what it calls the “wanton destruction and sacrilege”.