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Bethel: Govt to apply to lift shantytown injunction before end of the year

The government will make an application to lift an injunction banning the demolition of shantytowns by the end of the year, Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday.

“It will be filed well before the end of the year,” Bethel told The Nassau Guardian.

“It may not be able to be heard before the end of the year because there is a status hearing set for I think it’s as early as next month, which will be dealing with the pending applications from the other side for discovery and documents and some other technical matters. So, we are seeking to push as much of that together into one hearing.”

Last year, the government announced that it would demolish shantytowns throughout The Bahamas.

However, in August 2018, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson handed down an injunction blocking the demolition of shantytown structures.

Last month, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that he intended to instruct the attorney general to return to court and seek to have the injunction lifted.

Yesterday, Bethel said, “We, on our part, are moving to prepare the documentation seeking to have the injunction either overturned…or cut back. So, in due course, we will be making full application to do that.”

Bethel said lawyers in the Office of The Attorney General have already started preparing the paperwork.

“I had a touch up meeting with them last week when I had just gotten back in town and I’ll be following up in short order,” he said.

“But, I have repeated the instructions and they are aware of what they’ve got to do.”

The shantytown communities on Abaco, like many other areas on the island, were decimated by Hurricane Dorian in early September.

The Category 5 storm left hundreds of people homeless, without a job and with an uncertain future.

Dorian killed at least 69 people; some of the deaths occurred in shantytowns on Abaco.

After Dorian, the government issued an immediate six-month ban on the construction of new buildings in those shantytowns.

On October 2, Minnis announced that the government intends to acquire shantytown property on Abaco through compulsory acquisition.

The constitution provides for the compulsory acquisition of land by the government.

On October 7, Fred Smith, QC, who represents shantytown residents, noted that “the injunction covers all shantytown land in New Providence as well as such land on Abaco occupied by specific applicants who are residents of shantytowns in Abaco”.

“We stress that recent events do not change the terms of the injunction, which remains in full force and effect unless and until varied by the court,” Smith wrote in a letter to the Office of the Attorney General.

Bethel responded to Smith’s letter two days later, noting that the government had not taken any action “contrary” to the injunction.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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