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UPDATED: Dispute goes on as families pick up pieces after demolition

Youngsters picking through the debris on Sunday at the site near Prince Charles Drive after bulldozers moved in last week.
Photos: Tim Clarke/Tribune Staff

Youngsters picking through the debris on Sunday at the site near Prince Charles Drive after bulldozers moved in last week. Photos: Tim Clarke/Tribune Staff

By NICO SCAVELLA

Tribune Staff Reporter

nscavella@tribunemedia.net

A LOCAL attorney claims that his family’s rightful ownership of embattled land in the Prince Charles Drive area was justification for the property’s demolition, which left dozens of beneficiaries of a local outreach organisation displaced.

William Fountain, of Cash Fountain law firm and son of former Chief Justice Sir Cyril Fountain, said Thursday’s demolition of the property on Pine Barren Road, which was home to some 46 beneficiaries of the Ambassador Corral International Association (ACIA), was justified according to a court order dating back to May 9, 2014, which stipulated that ACIA was to vacate the property from August 10, 2014.

However, ACIA Managing Director Michael Bullard told The Tribune yesterday that while his organisation was aware of the August 2014 deadline, it was by way of a legal letter from the Fountain’s law firm, and not an actual court document.

Mr Bullard also claimed that the court document that the legal letter referenced was only given to him recently by the property’s alleged previous owner, Warren Aranha.

Furthermore, Mr Bullard claimed that Mr Aranha allegedly instructed the organisation to stay put since they had already made payments to him to acquire the land.

“We’re caught in the middle of this whole thing,” Mr Bullard told The Tribune. “The dispute should have been settled between (the Fountains and Mr Aranha), and then they come to us. But they kept badgering us. And for the past eight years all we’ve been getting is tractors and threats.”

Last Thursday, Mr Bullard stood by helplessly as bulldozers ripped through homes and other buildings erected on the property while various persons scrambled amidst the chaos in an attempt to salvage what little they could of their belongings, which included clothes, instruments and pets.

According to Mr Bullard, a number of farm animals, cats, birds, and rabbits were killed in the demolition. At least three dogs were injured but are now receiving medical attention, he said.

Mr Bullard also claimed that living quarters, four offices, three security booths, as well as facilities that housed the organisation’s Royal Diplomat Academy were also destroyed in the process.

On Friday, Mr Fountain told The Tribune that while the demolition appeared to be callous, the ACIA had ample time to adhere to the ruling.

“Contact was made through Sir Cyril and through other members of our family, to say to him – and he was given things verbally and in writing as well – to vacate and he (Mr Bullard) did nothing,” Mr Fountain told The Tribune. “So whilst I am very cognisant of the humanitarian aspect of this, there’s also a part of it that says at what point does the rule of law stand, and at what point am I able to enforce my rights as a land owner? I don’t think that Mr Bullard was put upon.”

Mr Bullard responded yesterday by saying: “He brought a letter and said we have to leave the property, and I said he’d have to take it up with Mr Aranha, not me. He kept saying I was trespassing; I said well then I need a court order. They never brought a court order; they just brought this letter from (Sir Cyril) stating that they’re the original owners of the property and we must please leave or they’re going to destroy everything. Well if they did then they should have had the police remove us, not destroy us.”

Nonetheless, when asked what the ACIA was doing to rebound from the demolition, Mr Bullard said: “We’re just trying to put together what we had, and what we had, we had very little (of).”

He added: “All I know is I only purchased (the property) because they said it was clear in title. I wouldn’t have purchased it (otherwise).”

When contacted yesterday, Mr Aranha did not offer comment but said he would be open to speaking on the issue later this week.

The Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA), in a press statement yesterday, called upon the relevant authorities to “urgently investigate” the circumstances surrounding Thursday’s demolition.

The GBHRA said it was “deeply concerned” that dozens of individuals, including young children, were “forced to watch the destruction of their community at the hands of someone claiming ownership over the land on which they resided.”

“Having your home ripped from under you, your pets killed, your personal property destroyed, is an unspeakably traumatic experience for anyone,” said GBHRA Secretary Paco Nunez. “Most of all, we worry about the emotional and psychological scars that will be borne by the children, probably for the rest of their lives.”

“Sadly, this is the society we live in, where those with power fail to act in the face of human suffering – particularly when the victims happen to be underprivileged.

“Despite the lip service paid to ‘believing in Bahamians’, our politicians do little to defend the most vulnerable in our midst. Often enough, it is agencies of the government that commit the worst abuses against the poor and disenfranchised,” the statement added.

Comments

DreamerX 6 years, 5 months ago

Where are those mouth pieces now that the situation has been explained from the other perspective!?

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Emac 6 years, 5 months ago

Like I always say, people need to examine both sides of an issue before getting too emotional and taking sides. The problem with the majority of Bahamians is that they take everything as gospel, no matter the source. Send any bogus message on WhatsApp, or facebook and watch it go viral!

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CatIslandBoy 6 years, 5 months ago

Now, I understand why the Tribune did not name the property owners in its original story. Same old stuff, different day - protecting the identity of the privileged elitist friends - The Fountains.

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John 6 years, 5 months ago

Two wrongs still does not make a right....he could have gotten bailiffs and have the people remove their belongings before the demolition.."Sir" in front of he pa name does not excuse his inhumane actions! Try evicting a tenant they way he did and see what happens..to you! Then explain the injuring and killing of animals??? Let me guess..they were party's to the dispute as well? Woe unto ye lawyers...william

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Cobalt 6 years, 5 months ago

Listen, idiot....... squatting on private property is wrong.

Why don't you tell readers where you live so that someone can pitch a tent on your property free of charge and see how you like it. There are laws in this country that protects land and home owners from this kind of thing. The courts were right to enforce it.

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SayWa 6 years, 5 months ago

The issue isnt the squatting, the issue is the removal of the persons affected was not handled the best way. Thats the point John is trying to make, and it is a valid one.

This could have been handled much more humanely.

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TalRussell 6 years, 5 months ago

Comrades seeking divine guidance before blogging I done quickly been flipping pages my bible and landed on Deuteronomy 23:1. To put it lightly, the can scratch off making heaven from their afterlife lists.
The disgusting door judgment exercised by ALL the "Dickheads" who were responsible for ordering and carrying out the bulldozing should ceremoniously have their testicles crushed and male organs cut off.
If you can call for public floggings of immigrants and criminals, why not hold public testicles crushing and male organ cut off events at Rawson Square?
Comrades we could promote it as a double-featured event -
“Justice-Minded Citizens, Come Out See What Happens Da Balls & Pricks of Da Heartless Land Barons – As Decreed In Deuteronomy 23:1”.

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proudloudandfnm 6 years, 5 months ago

If people were on my property I was dozing too.

The real culprit is the person that told these people they could live there...

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proudloudandfnm 6 years, 5 months ago

Aint a damn thing wrong about taking back what's yours.

Only Bible you need to know on this is thou shall not steal ....

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Godson 6 years, 5 months ago

When the government is inadequate, the LORD will have to answer for the poor, the shelter-less, the homeless, the fatherless and the motherless.

But I know one thing, I would never want to be the one that has to do the listening in such cases. So Bahamas... Stay tune...

I have learnt that when you fight a man... you don't necessarily touch him... Nope..., do not put one finger on him! Instead, TOUCH HIS HEART!!!

When the LORD wants our attention, he knows where each and everyone of our hearts is located. The LORD touches the heart in more ways than one. See II Samuel 16.

In any event, I never knew that a man or woman can steal a piece of land until I considered what happened in Chub Cay, Berry Islands.

Not being a member of the Club and also not identified, after he was denied docking privilege, I heard it said that Sir Lynden Pindling told the then owner/manager of Chub Cay Club that he had better take a rope or chain and tow his property out of The Bahamas before he returns to Nassau.

Given what is being reported in the media, and if it is all factual, if I was the owners of this piece of land, I too would simply ask to stop the earth and let me get of with my piece of land... or at least, allow me to pull it out of The Bahamas.

Godson 'Nicodemus' Johnson

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TalRussell 6 years, 5 months ago

Comrades this to me is not simply just about who really owns the land, or who the courts ruled in favour of, or against, pertaining property ownership.
Regardless, this is not the first time with court documents in hand we have seen where heavy equipment machines were moved in to destroy the personal properties of people.
In truth this PLP Cabinet and that of the previous government, have also bulldozed down peoples dwellings and things.
Wasn't their media reporting about a church also being destroyed?
Good God Almighty, are not even children's pets guaranteed not be bulldozed into the ground?

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Godson 6 years, 5 months ago

TalRussell and readers alike, what should be most disturbing to us about this situation is the fact that this branch of the Fountain family consists of three (3) COUNSELORS & ATTORNEYS' of law including Sir Cyril Fountain who himself is Her Majesty's Queen's Counsel.

This number does not take into account what it would be if we were to name those related from the Isaac extension of the family.

But taken to its basic narrative, what is disturbing is that these three (3) persons, like many other of The Bahamas Bar Association, undertook and swore to serve society best interest to help the citizens of this 'COMMONWEALTH', including the indigent and marginalize, in their ongoing needs for resolution in legal disputes and social issues.

In this case, reducing these children to a shelter-less existence and tears, was this, at the best, the only resolution that this family of three (3) COUNSELORS & ATTORNEYS could produce?

I am sincerely disturb, and I hope that others are too. Is this the best and only resolution they could have come up with? If it is, then we all must embrace ourselves for further social and economic deterioration; which inevitably, conditions the breathing ground for an increase in criminal activities. But again, who stands to profit when these poor souls have to stand accused before the courts?

Boy... it seems we cannot win for losing. But then you would think that no one in this Fountain family had ever given birth to a child; that this branch of the Fountain family, it seems, were all instantaneously molded from clay.

Our People need to be more cognizant of not 'WHO' it is that they have to look up to as COUNSELORS & ATTORNEYS, but rather, 'WHAT'.

This news article shows clearly an example of 'WHAT' we got.

Godson 'Nicodemus' Johnson

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ThisIsOurs 6 years, 5 months ago

Hmm this is the gentleman who collects money by the light at the intersection of Bay St and Village road. There should be severe penalties for persons who sell land that's not theirs and for contractors who take money without giving value.

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Greentea 6 years, 5 months ago

you are so right. I am suspicious of Mr. Aranha in this matter and sadly find the gentleman's claim of purchase equally suspect. where are the papers- if he bought it? just because the fountains are middle class should not mean that they don't have the right to their land. they worked for it. they own it. they warned the people. they said bring it. i think sales records should be in the public domain as well - just like the United States. waaaaaayyyyy too many people get robbed by people selling property they do not own to people who don't know better or believe in quieting and claim. not to know better.

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ThisIsOurs 6 years, 5 months ago

Dunno, nobody knows but Mr Bullard and Mr Arahna. Bahamians are somewhat trusting, I believe there are a lot of informal agreements in this country and a lot of people get screwed over with no legal recourse.

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Thumbelina242 6 years, 5 months ago

It's really unfortunate but painfully clear that the root cause of this situation is that the lawyer called to the Bahamas Bar Association failed to do a complete title search and proper due diligence to determine the rightful owners of the property before concluding the sale of the property. But I guess being paid was more important to the attorney than executing the work properly. The end result is the hard working 'small man' has no recourse when his money has been spent.

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Bahamianpride 6 years, 5 months ago

Where is the Police, Individuals should not be executing evictions on their own without the presence of the state to ensure this is done humanely. The lawyers explanation doesn't justify the actions taken. If according him the order of the court is ignored, then the next action should be to go back to court and schedule an eviction with the proper authorities present. The police would have ordered everyone to leave and given time for them to get their belongings. U don't just show up one day and bulldoze the property with people, their property and animals present without any precautions. This is uncivilized behavior and legal actions needs to be taken for the animals injured and damage to individual property. Furthermore the individual who sold this property should be tracked down and arrested.

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My2cents 6 years, 5 months ago

How do you know that proper procedures were not followed and ignored, like the notification from 2014? Personal responsibility should never be optional. Problems don't go away by simply ignoring them. So while I feel badly for the children, the adults in their lives are the ones that caused them to be without a roof over their heads.

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Bahamianpride 6 years, 5 months ago

My2can't, the same way u know it was. We have 2 conflicting stories one of an attorney ( professional lyer) & one from a charity group helping the poor. I see no mention of police presence during this ordeal. Lastly l have been in these types of land dispute & understand that shady individuals will claim your land and sell it if u don't keep an eye on it. The typical eviction in the Bahamas is some land owner hiring bunch of thugs to remove undwanted individuals so I'm happy they at least did not go that route. I'm maybe just a little bias in favor of the poor, that's the Christian in me.

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My2cents 6 years, 5 months ago

Being biased in "favor of the poor" does not make you a Christian. Also the tribune does not always present a balanced story, so I only know what I've read and I made no assumptions otherwise.

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Bahamianpride 6 years, 5 months ago

U assume that the lawyers statement about proper notification is correct. U assume that me having a bias towards poor means I don't believe in the rule of law. What I see in this country over and over is the abuse of poor people so therefore I am bias in favor of their protection because the rule of law does not apply to them.

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My2cents 6 years, 5 months ago

I assume/assumed nothing...before the update I asked how did you know proper processes was not followed. The owner had said the organization was notified multiple times. You're the one making assumptions here

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asiseeit 6 years, 5 months ago

If this country was steeped in the RULE OF LAW, this would never have happened. As we are now a failed state, have no rule of law, what else could you expect. Maybe now the PLP will understand that this country needs to obey and enforce the RULE OF LAW!

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TruePeople 6 years, 5 months ago

More homeless disenfranchised people on our island. The point is the powers at be don't see able to help us with things like employment, education, social well-being, law enforcement, or public safety.... but are more than able to hinder us with an obnoxious foreign policy, a failed BahaMar, rising unemployment, higher taxes, higher bridge fairs, higher cost of everything, sky rocketing murder rates not to mention other crimes, and mediocre to failing infrastructure and organizations such as power and water.

Until urban renewal starts getting people into jobs homes and safe communities, why is this gov't adding to the social problems that are hurting this nation by putting more poor people out on the street?

Law has nothing to do with it cus we know that if ya rich here the law doesn't apply to you, the law only seems to full apply to those who are poor

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Greentea 6 years, 5 months ago

can anyone tell me whether leaders in the Ambassador group actually work themselves or do they support this group purely through donations at east bay and village road? what is the philosophy of this 'non-profit' group? where are their financials? transparency and accountability is needed in every sector of society- every sector- rich poor black white old young or otherwise.

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ThisIsOurs 6 years, 5 months ago

I had just asked my friend (maybe a week ago), to find out from the gentleman exactly what he was collecting money for. I never understood standing in the sun, day in and out, when you could appeal to organizations and get more donations in one hour than you got in three months on the street (if the cause was just). No easy answer here, this country needs a turnaround to lift more people out of poverty.

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Bahamianpride 6 years, 5 months ago

These are valid questions regarding the group. But let's go further, who are the individuals that sold this property alledgedly under false pretense to this group, are they politically connected, let an investigation reveal their identity? If all notification where made as stated and all legal documents support this, these matters should be easy to resolve. Let's hold to the fire everyone involved equally & find out objectively who created this tragedy because once again the only people losing are the poor. Tribune time for some investgative journalism.

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Bahamianpride 6 years, 5 months ago

Reread update, Warren Aranhna and the Fountains won, the poor lost.

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TruePeople 6 years, 5 months ago

Poor like they always lose... not much of an update

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