Smith threatens govt over Family Island shantytown action
As he called on the government to install utility services in shantytowns in Abaco, Fred Smith, QC, yesterday warned Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, who chairs the Shantytown Action Task Force (SATF), to stop the committees work in the Family Islands or face being cited for contempt of court.
Smith’s threats follow comments from Foulkes, who has advised that the Abaco shantytown survey was complete and the SATF was moving onto the next steps to getting those communities eradicated by July 31, 2019.
The government gave shantytown residents on New Providence until August 10 to evacuate.
Once the deadline passed, it would have moved to demolish the homes in those communities.
However, days before those homes were to be destroyed, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson issued an injunction preventing the demolition of the shantytowns on New Providence and granted leave for a judicial review of the government’s actions regarding the shantytowns.
While the government has dissolved its New Providence SATF, it has said it will continue its work in the Family Islands.
The SATF is following the same procedure in Abaco as it did in New Providence, according to Foulkes.
“I call on the government to immediately reinstate utility services to The Mudd and Pigeon Peas and also I’d like to let Minister Foulkes know that he is going to be cited for contempt because the injunction does indeed apply to houses in the Pigeon Pea and The Mudd,” Smith told The Nassau Guardian.
“I don’t know why they think that the injunction doesn’t apply there.
“So, I give the minister fair warning to stop terrorizing the people in those villages because the injunction does in fact apply to 88 homeowners in the Pigeon Pea and The Mudd area.
“…Because the government is not being responsible and is not being sensible and is not respecting the process before the court, we are now going to have to go back to court to get an injunction to restrain the government from terrorizing people.
“I ask the minister and the government to behave a little bit more sensibly and sensitively to human beings.”
Foulkes told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that there are approximately 912 households in six shantytowns throughout Abaco.
That number includes 449 households in The Mudd, 184 households in The Peas, 146 households in The Farm Road, 80 households in Sandbanks, 16 households in L & H, and 37 households in Elbow Cay.
“There are several subcommittees that are actually meeting to look at the various aspects of what we have to do in Abaco,” Foulkes said.
“One of the main challenges that we have in the Marsh Harbour area, also in Treasure Cay, is this question of alternate housing and in terms of relocation.
“There are very little available rental units.
“We have a subcommittee that’s meeting that comprises of both government and private sector persons out of Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay as to how we can resolve that problem.”
Foulkes said yesterday that the work of the task force continues unimpeded on the Family Islands.
“The prime minister has given the committee very firm instructions to proceed with the Family Islands and to ensure that all of the shantytowns are removed,” Foulkes once again asserted.
“There is a process that we are going to follow.
“The end result of that process is to physically give out the notices in Abaco.
“There is a subcommittee that deals specifically with the legal aspects of it.
“We have representatives from the attorney general’s office who are on that subcommittee in addition to some persons from Marsh Harbour who will be making some recommendations as to the timing.
“Our end result is July 31, 2019 for the process to be completed.”
Smith, however, insisted yesterday that the “sensible approach” for the government would be to “to bring waste management, bring water and sewerage facilities, and bring power and electricity,” to those communities in Abaco.
The number of households in shantytowns in Abaco have decreased over the past five years, based to a comparative analysis of results from the 2013 ‘Shanty Town Project’ and preliminary results from the 2018 Abaco shantytown survey.
A 2013 report by researchers in the Department of Environmental Health Services indicated there were three shantytowns on Abaco, at the time, including Sandbanks, The Mudd and The Peas.
Researchers found a “marked indifference to the extremely unhealthy conditions by those that occupy the shanties”.
Combined, those three communities had more than 1,000 homes, according to the report.
In Pigeon Peas, there were 300 residences at the time, 116 more than the most recent survey.
In The Mudd, which is still the largest of the three predominantly Haitian communities, there were 600 residences, 151 more than the most recent survey.
In Sandbanks, there were 124 residences, 44 more than the most recent survey.
Foulkes said yesterday that the decrease in the households is more than likely the result of several fires within those communities over the years.
“In the shantytown referred to as The Mudd there’s been two fires that have destroyed a significant amount of homes,” Foulkes said.
“I don’t know how many homes but that would have accounted for the decrease in the numbers in the Mudd.
“I am not familiar as to what are the reasons for The Peas and Sandbanks.”
He continued, “It is [also] possible that due to the consecutive warnings that have been given by the government – two successive governments had plans to remove the shantytowns – that some of the residents might have moved, but I really cannot say that for sure. I have no facts to support that.
“But certainly, the fires in The Mudd would count for the decrease in that area.”