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Govt to expand shantytown demolitions

Bannister: Our people are mobilized and ready

The demolition of unauthorized structures in The Farm shantytown on Abaco is set to continue this week, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said yesterday, noting he is concerned about health and safety issues the buildings pose.

He said that once demolition in The Farm is complete, the teams will move on to other shantytowns.

 “When we finish there, we are going to go to other shantytowns too,” he said.

Bannister said occupied buildings in The Farm will be demolished this week, in phase three of the government’s plan to get rid of the unauthorized structures.

“Thursday makes 28 days [and] we couldn’t go into occupied structures until 28 days had passed,” he said.

“And so, we are going into the third phase beginning this week.

“Our people are mobilized and ready to do what they have to do.

“I have tried not to speak too much on this because of the dignity of persons involved and [wanting to] protect their dignity. But at the same time, we are going to enforce the law as is required in this country.

“I am very concerned about the health issues impacting our people as a result of what I see out there. And you can be assured that in the next week or so you are going to see some action that is going to happen.”

In 2018, the government announced that all shantytowns in The Bahamas will be demolished.

It subsequently gave residents of most shantytowns on New Providence until August 10, 2018, to leave before demolition.

Residents in shantytowns on Abaco were to be given until the end of July 2019 to leave.

However, in August 2018, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson granted an injunction preventing the demolition of shantytowns.

On Abaco, however, shantytowns were among the hardest-hit communities during Hurricane Dorian in September 2019.

The ruins of many of the communities were cleared by the government in the aftermath of the storm. But some people were still living in The Farm shantytown at the time, and as a result, those structures were protected by the injunction.

Bannister, however, noted that in the aftermath of Dorian, a ban was issued on the construction of new buildings in shantytowns.

He said the buildings set to be demolished this week are in violation of that ban. The only structures that will remain untouched are those that were still standing immediately after Dorian.

“The court ordered…nobody was supposed to go and construct any shantytown, any structures,” he said.

“It was very clear. There is an injunction against building any structures that’s been in place for almost two years.

“So, how do we get hundreds of houses and hundreds of structures with people living in them in violation of the law? Then if they sit there for a couple of years, believe me, they are going to be able to go to the Supreme Court and get certificates of title to that land and own that land.

“You as a Bahamian can’t do that.

“You want to go out there and be able to acquire your land properly, own it properly in accordance with the law and live in a safe manner.

“Those structures are not safe. If a hurricane comes around, many of them are going to blow away again. If you have fires again, you are going to have challenges. You have feces seeping into the groundwater table.

“So, I am concerned about the health of people in Abaco and other areas. We have many challenges with those structures.

“Every one of those structures, except for 30 of them – there are 30 that we won’t touch – all of those other structures were built in violation of a direct court order that said nobody was to build any structures or add to them, a blatant violation of the law.” 

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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