By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
DESPITE the alarming shanty town report and subsequent promises of action, several months on, Housing and Environment Minister Kenred Dorsett admitted that the government has yet to prosecute anyone.
Two months ago, on July 5, Mr Dorsett insisted that in the face of any environmental infractions or potential for groundwater contamination, “my ministry will get involved and my ministry will prosecute.”
On July 31, he said officials had already been ordered to prosecute land owners who had not replied to notices of infractions.
At the time, he said: “(Officials) have been given instructions to proceed with prosecution where the notices have not been complied with. I would assume that should begin any day now.”
But yesterday, Mr Dorsett revealed that the Attorney General’s office and his ministry’s lawyer have not yet finished drawing up summonses for those thought to have committed infractions.
He also noted that when it comes to making land owners tear down illegal buildings in shanty towns, the buck stops with another ministry.
He said: “I think that the reality is, under my legislation we do not have the ability, beyond prosecution, to do anything to anyone’s structure.
“So that is the reason why we were working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Works, who has that authority.”
But the minister added, Works officials have only just completed their assessments and are also yet to take any concrete action.
He said yesterday: “So I had a discussion with the Ministry of Works team and I have been made to understand that they have completed their assessment.
“They have begun the process of completing their notices to serve on the owners and occupants of that shanty town, together with the fact that the Attorney General’s office and the attorney in my ministry are in the process of completing the summonses, so it’s a work in progress.”
Talk of swift action was at its height around the time of the shanty town report, released on July 3, which found serious environmental and health concerns exist across the shanty town network, and that a number of illicit industries flourish there – among them the illegal burning of pine forest to produce coal and the unauthorised sale of prescription medication.
Around that time, Mr Dorsett said: “From a public health stand point, the bottom line is we cannot continue business as usual. One outbreak of cholera and our number one industry – gone. This is not something that we can play with.”
Soon after, the land owner’s attorney John Bostwick II said his clients had no intention of allowing the displaced persons to rebuild.
However, Mr Dorsett yesterday said many unauthorised buildings still exist in that shanty town.
He said: “I continue to have a dialogue with Senator Bostwick’s clients. They have been co-operative to the extent that they took it up themselves to serve notices of eviction on those persons who occupy their land.
“But there are still structures on there that do not meet the minimal requirements of the law and I think that is very clear to anyone who would visit that facility.