Carl Bethel QC, Attorney General. Photo: Terrel W Carey/Tribune Staff
By LEANDRA ROLLE
ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel yesterday said that the government “will prevail” in the courts against injunctions filed to stop the demolition of shanty towns in the country.
“Iron will meet iron… the struggle to eradicate these unacceptable, unsafe and very dangerous conditions will continue in the courts and we expect that we will prevail because all we are asking is for every single resident in the Bahamas to live their life in healthy and safe and sanitary way,” he told reporters at Government House yesterday.
“No amount of glossy affidavits and words can justify or hide the fact that it is well documented that these shanty towns are unsafe conditions, particularly for the young girls as well and not to mention surrounding communities and not to mention the adults who live in these areas.”
Mr Bethel was responding reports that Rights Bahamas had filed an affidavit to further prevent the evictions and demolitions of shanty towns in Abaco and the wider Bahamian community.
Rights Bahamas has previously said the organisation would not relent in taking legal action over the demolition of shanty towns, branding the move as “xenophobic and petty.”
“The applicants seek judicial review of the respondents’ proposed plan to demolish homes and other buildings in several specific organic Haitian ethnic communities in New Providence, Abaco and elsewhere in The Bahamas,” Rights Bahamas President Stephanie St Fleur said in an affidavit obtained by the local daily. “The applicants are also seeking and injunction to prevent any further evictions and or demolitions in these communities or indeed anywhere else in the Bahamas.
“This affidavit does not speak to events which have been occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which hit the Bahamas and in particular the Abacos and Grand Bahama on September 1, 2019.”
But, to this, the attorney responded: “I read portions of the affidavit just a few moments ago and um, I’m sorry she can conjure up and pretty up a shanty town all she wants, but most persons have left the poverty and degradation of shanty towns in Haiti.
“So, why would we want them to create it here? We want people to live in a style of living that all Bahamians live in. We want to glorify the ethnicity and diversity of our country, but in ways that dignify the residents of this country.”
He continued: “It is documented that these shanty towns are unhealthy, unsafe and perilous particularly for children and young girls. This is well documented… and it subjects people to inordinate peril, should a natural disaster occur as occurred in Abaco and Grand Bahama. So, we will fight the good fight with all our might and God willing, we will prevail.”
Shanty towns across Abaco were decimated as a result of Hurricane Dorian, the powerful Category Five storm which pummeled that island and Grand Bahama in early September.
And, following the monster storm’s passage, the Minnis administration issued a six-month prohibition ban for all Abaco shanty towns.
In August 2018, the Supreme Court allowed an injunction barring the Minnis administration from moving ahead with its August 10, 2018 eviction deadline for unregulated New Providence communities.
The court also ordered government and utility providers to halt any planned service disconnections or evictions in shanty towns pending a judicial review of the Minnis administration’s policy to eradicate those communities.
However, in October, Dr Minnis instructed Mr Bethel to compulsorily acquire land where shanty towns in Abaco once stood before Dorian decimated them.