Govt willing to assist some shantytown residents, AG says

While the government will move to demolish newly built homes in a shantytown on Abaco, Attorney General Carl Bethel said yesterday that the state is willing to assist residents.

“The law will be upheld, whatever that entails,” Bethel told The Nassau Guardian.

“People don’t have to be evicted if they acknowledge that what they’re doing is wrong and say, ‘Okay, fine, what can I do to make it right?’ or ‘Can you assist me in going somewhere where I can do this right?’

“So, there are any number of options that could be followed. Nobody is intending to be harsh or unrelenting or not understanding, but laws must be obeyed and we must all try and find ways to assist those who need to properly follow the law.”

Early in its term, the Minnis administration announced plans to demolish shantytowns in The Bahamas.

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

The government is seeking to have the injunction lifted.

After Hurricane Dorian, which decimated the areas last year, the government issued an immediate six-month ban on the construction of new buildings on Abaco shantytowns.

However, structures have been built in The Farm shantytown following the storm.

Yesterday, Bethel said the building control officer for Abaco will make an assessment which will guide the government as to how to proceed with shantytowns on the island.

“We will be looking at all the developments in detail and having regard to what the injunction says, what the no-build zone order says and what the law says about the quality of building,” he said.

Bethel said the government wants integrated communities.

“We don’t want this concept of culturally isolated communities within the far reaches of The Bahamas,” he said.

“The ultimate goal is to have people living in safe and sound housing that are as secure as the law can provide.”

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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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