Govt should be restrained from taking shantytown land on Abaco, attorneys argue

The government should be “restrained” from demolishing buildings or taking possession of shantytown land on Abaco, according to a notice of motion filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The motion was filed by attorneys representing shantytown residents in The Bahamas.

The respondents in this matter include Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, Attorney General Carl Bethel, Bahamas Power and Light and the Water and Sewerage Corporation.

According to the document, the respondents should be “restrained — directly or through their agents, appointees or employees — from taking possession of, demolishing any building on, or otherwise interfering with the occupier’s enjoyment of, any land on Abaco forming part of an unregulated community commonly known as a shantytown”.

“For the purposes of this paragraph, land is to be taken to be occupied even if the occupier is currently absent by reason of the damage caused by Hurricane Dorian,” it notes.

The government should give shantytown residents a 30-day notice before seeking to take possession of or demolishing any building on the land, according to the document.

Shantytowns on Abaco were decimated by Hurricane Dorian in early September.

Following the Category 5 storm, Minnis announced that he had instructed Attorney General Carl Bethel to return to court and seek to have a Supreme Court injunction — prohibiting the demolition of shantytown structures — lifted.

Last month, the government filed a summons, which seeks to have five shantytowns on Abaco excluded from the injunction.

At the time, Bethel said the filing was the result of a recent assessment which indicated that shantytowns on the island had been wiped out by Dorian, noting that “nearly 100 percent of the buildings [were] totally destroyed”.

The prime minister has noted the government’s intention to acquire shantytown property on Abaco through compulsory acquisition.

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

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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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