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Govt wants Abaco excluded from shantytown injunction

Attorney General Carl Bethel said the government has filed a summons seeking to have five shantytowns on Abaco excluded from a standing injunction, which prohibits the demolition of shantytowns in The Bahamas, “because there is nothing to demolish anymore”.

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. 

In the summons, which was filed by the Office of the Attorney General in the Supreme Court on December 19, the government is asking that Grant-Thompson vary last year’s injunction “to exclude” Abaco shantytowns.

In the document, the government said, “…Take notice that the ground of this application is that since the grant of the injunction, the island of Abaco was devastated by Hurricane Dorian.

“Consequently, there was nearly 100 percent of destruction of houses in areas such as The Mudd, Pigeon Peas, Sand Banks, The Farm Road and Leisure Lee Community.

“Accordingly, the very basis for the grant of the junction has disappeared in relation to these communities.” 

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

Following the Category 5 storm, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced that he had instructed Bethel to return to court and seek to have the injunction lifted.

Bethel told The Nassau Guardian that the filing is the result of recent assessments which show that shantytowns on Abaco were wiped out by Hurricane Dorian.

“Nearly 100 percent of the buildings are totally destroyed, so based on that finding we are arguing that the injunction should be discharged for the islands of Abaco,” Bethel said.

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

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.

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.

“In fact, it ought to have been anticipated by you in any event that Hurricane Dorian created a fundamental change in circumstances which would have implications for the proceedings generally, and in particular for the terms of the current injunction, which might in the circumstances require modification,” Bethel said.

Last month, Rights Bahamas filed an application for an injunction to block further evictions and demolition of shantytowns on Abaco and the wider Bahamas.

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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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