New push to end shantytowns

Govt asks to appeal injunction; judge reserves decision

Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant -Thompson yesterday reserved her decision on an application made by the Office of the Attorney General to appeal a ruling handed down in June extending the shantytown injunction to the entirety of Abaco.

The injunction bars the demolition of all shantytown structures on Abaco until a final decision is made.

Fred Smith, QC, who represents the shantytown residents, said the government’s application for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal, is premature and a waste of time as the only people being hurt are the poor.

“Having delivered that ruling against them, they are now asking the court to stay the operation of your extension so that they can go back in and continue to demolish while you are writing your judgment,” he said.

“[It’s] a very, very perverse application and one which cannot be justified under any legal principles and certainly not on the facts to the court.”

He added, “As I said earlier, the only injustice is to the flesh and blood, real-life human beings who are eking out an existence in the homes in Abaco.”

He said Grant-Thompson’s ruling was plainly justified.

The previous government had demolished several illegal housing structures in shantytown communities on Abaco.

Kayla Green-Smith, who appeared on behalf of the Office of the Attorney General, said the matter is of public interest for the court to examine as there are very arguable grounds with a possibility of success.

“We again note more specifically that the notice of appeal raises an issue of public interest in that there was no proper or legal or factual basis for an injunction that retains the government’s activities until the determination of the substantive issue because the substantive issues will not determine the legality of post-hurricane action taken by the government,” she said.

She said, “The ruling frustrated the operation of the Disaster Reconstruction Authority Act and further it overstepped the court’s constitutional bounds in ruling that the powers under the act couldn’t be exercised without the sanctioning of the court.”

She added, “We say that this is a matter of public importance, and I find it incredible that my learned senior would stand before this honorable court and say that this is a not a matter that should go to the Court of Appeal for consideration and that we have no authority to even launch an appeal.”

However, Smith argued that the DRA didn’t even exist when the government bulldozed homes in The Mudd shantytown.

He said the last government’s policy of destroying people’s homes in those communities is inhumane and degrading.

The substantive judicial review of the shantytown matter is still under consideration by the court, with parties awaiting the judge’s ruling.

Shantytown residents are challenging the government’s 2018 policy, which sought to get rid of shantytowns in The Bahamas.

Implementation of the policy was halted after an injunction — banning demolition on New Providence and parts of Abaco — was granted by Cheryl Grant-Thompson that same year.

The government filed a summons to vary the injunction to exclude applicants on Abaco. The applicants, meanwhile, had asked the court for the injunction to be extended to cover all shantytowns in The Bahamas or, in the alternative, all shantytowns on Abaco. 

Prior to Grant-Thompson’s ruling in June, the government had been demolishing shantytown structures on Abaco. Officials said only homes that were erected after the ruling were marked for demolition.

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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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