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Lawyers for shantytown residents seek more evidence from govt

Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson will rule February 11 on whether the attorneys for shantytown residents will be permitted more discovery evidence from the government.

The announcement came yesterday during a hearing to review an injunction, which was implemented in 2018, preventing the government from demolishing shantytowns in The Bahamas.

Attorney Martin Lundy II, who represents the shantytown residents, requested that the respondents turn over all documents related to the government’s intention to demolish shantytowns.

He said the evidence in discovery was “critical” to the case as The Bahamas has no access to free information nor an implemented Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

“How else are you going to get the documents to make your case?” Lundy asked.

Lundy noted that the case could not proceed without the applicants being granted access to evidence.

He argued that the matter was not “a game of hide and seek”, noting that the shantytown residents’ lives are “at stake”.

Kayla Green-Smith, of the Office of the Attorney General, rejected the applicants’ request.

She said the respondents have given all of the documents necessary for the case, noting that all documents from a Cabinet-appointed shantytown task force had been turned over to the applicants.

“So, m’lady, we said at the very beginning, we’ve laid our hands out,” Green-Smith said.

“We have nothing to hide. We have put before this honorable court the documents that [are] necessary to determine the issue in this judicial review.”

She accused the applicants of using the discovery “as a fishing exercise”.

However, Lundy rejected that accusation.

“There’s no question of this request being too wide or a fishing expedition,” he said.

“There’s more than sufficient material to apprehend that the government’s policies are what the applicants say it is. It is the respondents who have put that in issue and the only way to resolve the question is to order disclosure so that the documents showing the true position may come to light.”

When the case returns next month, Grant-Thompson will hear the applicants’ request to have the injunction varied to cover shantytowns on Abaco, which were destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in early September, as well as the government’s application to have the injunction discharged.

The current 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.

The substantive case goes to trial in March.

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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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