Real Estate Realities

Rules are for everyone

It really irks my soul when I pick up a newspaper and read about how individuals are upset over the shantytowns that are being demolished. What is even more irritating is the human rights groups that are in the middle of the foray, defending these individuals that have set up illegal neighborhoods right under the nose of the authorities.

It is interesting that there can be such an uproar over this, yet law-abiding citizens are put through the wringer for various types of construction on their legally owned

homes. Licensed electricians need permits from a ministry in order to safely carry out works on a meter or any major electrical work. These permits are necessary to provide safety to the inhabitants, especially as it relates to the electricity code, as you do not want an unlicensed electrician to be the cause of some damage to your home.

If you want a wall built over six feet, permission is needed. If you need to put up a billboard you need permission. These are just some of the smaller things that one must do when you live in a civilized society, where the rules must be followed.

Which government in the world would allow persons to arbitrarily move into its country, build homes that already violate that country’s building code, have some of their friends move in and before you know it, you have a full-grown neighborhood? We are a country of rules and yes at times they may be tiresome and frustrating, but if we are to live in a structured society, then everyone must play by the rules.

Shantytowns do not spring up overnight and someone would have most likely seen the progression of these communities over time. The million-dollar question now becomes, what took so long before it all came to a head?

In most cases, landowners facilitate these illegal shantytowns and nearly all these communities have been able to procure some form of electricity. The fact that they have been able to do all of this can only lead one to conclude that corruption plays a part, for these shantytowns to go unnoticed and unbothered by the authorities until residents start complaining.

Granted, some of the inhabitants of these shantytowns have work permits and other legal documentation to work here in The Bahamas. It is true that these individuals would need a place to stay. A plan can be put in place for such persons, or a time frame can be given for them to find habitation elsewhere in a properly structured community.

I support Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister for doing his job. I do not understand what rights you have when you go about illegally constructing homes. I am sure I speak for every right-thinking citizen of this country that it is time for everyone to play by the rules. It is time to put a stop to persons who are hell-bent on taking shortcuts and those that assist them. In my humble opinion, the law should come down on them like a ton of cement blocks.

The positive impact of human rights groups in The Bahamas cannot be understated. I am especially impressed with what they have done with folks who have been in jail for a long period of time without their cases being heard. Most of these cases get lost in the system and then end up costing us, the taxpayer, millions of dollars when they win in court over false imprisonment. I cry shame on the legal system in allowing this to happen so often. It is the Bahamian taxpayer who pays this bill, not the attorney general’s office!

Nevertheless, concerning the shantytown situation, the law is the law and where would this great nation be without it!

• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation, two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association and a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. He is also a former president of the Rotary Club of South East Nassau and is currently a member of the Rotary Club of West Nassau. E-mail: williamuwong@gmail.com.

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