Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday the government will “vigorously oppose” a recent application seeking to block further evictions and demolitions of shantytowns on Abaco and the wider Bahamas, noting that “iron will meet iron”.
In an affidavit filed on November 25, 2019, President of Rights Bahamas and Respect Our Homes Ltd. Stephanie St. Fleur accused the government of fostering anti-Haitian sentiment.
While speaking to reporters at Government House, Bethel said, “We will vigorously oppose their application. I read portions of the affidavit just a few moments ago and I’m sorry, she can doctor up and pretty up her shantytown all she wants but most persons have left the poverty and degradation of shantytowns in their native Haiti.
“Why would we want to have them created here? We want people to live at a standard of living that all Bahamians live in. We want to glorify the ethnicity and diversity of our country but in ways that dignify the residents of this country.
“The struggle to eradicate these unacceptable, unsafe and very dangerous living conditions will continue in the courts and we expect that we will prevail because all we are asking is for every single resident in The Bahamas to live their life in a healthy, safe and sanitary way that not only preserves their lives but does not endanger the lives of their neighbors.”
Bethel, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) and the Water and Sewerage Corporation are listed as the respondents of the affidavit.
In August 2018, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson granted an injunction blocking the demolition of shantytown structures.
The government had given residents of most shantytowns on New Providence until August 10, 2019 to leave before demolition started.
Yesterday, the attorney general noted the government is presently engaged in a struggle with regard to the shantytown matter.
“I am satisfied that with the help of the courts and the law, we will prevail,” Bethel said.
He added, “It is documented that these shantytowns are unhealthy, unsafe and perilous, particularly for children and young girls. This is well documented. The amount of glossy affidavits and words can’t justify or hide the fact that it is well documented that these shantytowns are unsafe conditions particularly for the young and girls as well…”
Shantytowns on Abaco, mainly The Mudd, Pigeon Peas and Sand Banks, were largely destroyed during the passage of Hurricane Dorian.
St. Fleur noted that her affidavit “does not speak to events which have occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which hit The Bahamas and in particular the Abacos and Grand Bahama on September 1, 2019”.
The government has moved to prevent residents from rebuilding in shantytowns on Abaco.
Referring to the devastation of the Category 5 storm, Bethel said yesterday, “Also, we know from what occurred in Abaco, that it seems that many persons living in what was once The Mudd and Pigeon Pea, and perhaps also the area outside of Treasure Cay, [that] there was massive flooding.
“There are many people who are missing. These are clearly unsafe dwellings, unsafe living conditions and it subjects people to inordinate peril…”
He added, “So, we will fight the great fight with all our might and, God willing, we will prevail.”