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We’Ll See You In Court Over Land: Shanty Town Move Branded As Xenophobic

A man stands on the rubble of his home in a shanty town in Abaco after the passage of Hurricane Dorian. Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP

A man stands on the rubble of his home in a shanty town in Abaco after the passage of Hurricane Dorian. Photo: Ramon Espinosa/AP

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

RIGHTS Bahamas said yesterday it would not relent in taking legal action over the government’s decision to compulsorily acquire shanty town land, branding the move “xenophobic and petty”.

The local human rights watchdog said if this means fighting tooth and nail throughout the courts and up to the Privy Council to prevent a “terrible abuse of power,” then it was fully prepared to do so.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced in Parliament last week that he directed Attorney General Carl Bethel to begin the process towards taking over the land where unregulated migrant communities once stood.

However, doing so is expected to be a lengthy process, according to Mr Bethel yesterday who confirmed that many things had to be done before a notice of intent for acquisition is issued.

“Matters are sort of in abeyance because of the condition of Mr (Fred) Smith,” Mr Bethel told The Tribune yesterday.

Mr Smith survived a near fatal paragliding accident in Italy that required five-hour surgery last month. He had been paragliding in the Dolomite Mountains of the Italian Alps, when an accident led to him dislocating and shattering his left ankle, breaking his left tibia, dislocating and slicing his right ankle and breaking two vertebrae.

Mr Bethel continued: “We are speaking with a representative, his counsel over here, seeking to clear away what we call interlocutory matters. There are some applications for discovery documents and things like that so we’re trying to in a sense get the nod to go ahead and have those matters heard in Smith’s absence, which you know he is lead counsel so it depends on what he says.

“This is the shanty town case and so there are some interlocutory matters that need to be cleared out so that we can set it down for a date for trial. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

Mr Bethel said he had no idea how many people stood to be compensated under laws that uphold squatter’s rights nor could he say how much of the shanty town land was privately owned.

“We can’t just wave a wand to do that. It takes a lot of review and investigation. People have to come forward (and) state their position,” he said.

“We are not at that stage yet. That stage will happen after the notice of intent for acquisition is issued and that can’t be issued until the land is properly surveyed.

“Once the land is properly surveyed and we have a proper plan as we call it, then notice would go out in newspapers and we post it at the administrator’s office and on the land. We aren’t at that stage because we still have to get the land surveyed.”

In a statement to The Tribune yesterday, Rights Bahamas said the government could not just use Hurricane Dorian as an excuse to take away property rights of people who once called those unregulated villages home.

“They cannot be discriminated against under the law,” Rights Bahamas said. “Their homes, their possessions cannot just be taken away from them. It is unconstitutional to target them just because they are different, because they are poor, or because some of them allegedly didn’t build to code, or because their neighbourhoods are unsanitary. All of these issues exist in Over-the-Hill communities in Nassau, yet no one is proposing that the government compulsorily acquire the land from the Bahamians who live there.

“These communities have been there for decades and many of the occupants have possessory rights under the law. The government can’t just use Dorian as an excuse to take away their property rights and discriminate against people because of their ethnic heritage.

“Clearly, the small minded, petty and xenophobic thinking behind this declaration is pursuant to an already existing agenda to exterminate communities of Haitian ethnicity, which is currently challenged by an ongoing court action. The government was blocked from taking away these people’s property rights by the court, so now they are seeking to use Dorian as an excuse to do it through the back door. This is totally illegal and utterly reprehensible.

“The storm might have destroyed people’s homes, but it did not abolish their property rights. The government has no legal right to dispossess these people.

“Just like every other community, they have a right to go back to rebuild. Of course, the rebuilding must be to code, but the process of considering their applications must be on the same basis that other applications are to be considered for every other person in every other community that was destroyed by Dorian.”

Following the monster storm’s passage, the Minnis administration issued a six-month prohibition ban for all Abaco shanty towns.

However, Rights Bahamas said the order should not have only been directed at those areas.

“It should have been a prohibition order in respect of all communities, not just the Haitian-Bahamian ones. Numerous international organisations and media houses have taken note of the government’s barbaric targeting of these defenceless victims of the storm.

“The country’s name is being dragged through the mud yet again over the issue of immigration enforcement. When will we learn?

“Rights Bahamas will take legal action over this abuse. We will sue the government in defence of people’s constitutional rights. We are committed to fighting tooth and nail, through the courts and up to the Privy Council if necessary, to prevent this terrible abuse of power from ever becoming a reality,” the organisation said yesterday.

Comments

DonAnthony 1 month, 1 week ago

Hard to see the government winning this one. This case is destined ultimately for the privy council and we know how they will rule....

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BahamaPundit 1 month, 1 week ago

The only reason the Government would lose is because they choose to. Shanty downs have always been a shut and closed case. You must come to equity with clean hands. Breaking building codes is plain dirty. Further, the evidence from Dorean is that the low lying shantytowns are unsafe for farm animals, let alone people.

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My2centz 1 month, 1 week ago

Hard to see them losing, if the AG does his job and the law is appropraitely applied.

The squatters always claimed to have been paying rent. So who were they paying? Who are the last owners on record? Even if not the true owner, they considered themselves to be tenants. Fred Smith put the idea forward that they were land owners. Does squatters law even apply to generational and personal property?

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DonAnthony 1 month, 1 week ago

I do not know for certainty either way but I seriously doubt most if hardly any of these squatters were paying rent. If they have been squatting for 7 years or more as it seems most of them have been then they have some claim to the land.

Regardless of how you feel about this seemingly intractable situation, we all want to see this resolved. The only question is how it is done. How about we do it in as humane and equitable manner as possible seeing that all Bahamians, especially our governments bear a great deal of culpability in this matter. We can all agree that we can not allow the previously intolerable situation to develop again.

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My2centz 1 month, 1 week ago

I doubt any law was crafted to take away personal land in favor of squatters. And if it is, crown land I don't see how any "equitable" solution can be arrived at by granting land to the Haitian community which comprises of Haitian nationals and their 1st, 2nd generation Bahamian offspring. Meanwhile many generational Bahamians, from slavery era or prior, have been shut out from this benefit. Despite what you believe, the majority of Bahamians live below the poverty line. The government's priority should be affordable housing for all who are legal. That's it. There's no way Bahamian land, granted for the benefit of Bahamians, should have to be bought from recent arrivals.

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DonAnthony 1 month, 1 week ago

A solution will require compromise, a meeting in the middle. If you want the whole cake you will probably end up with nothing. We need to compromise and fix this problem once and for all.

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My2centz 1 month, 1 week ago

@DonAnthony the government needs to priotize Bahamians, and legal residents, by doing what's in their best interest. No middle ground has to be met on that. They simply cannot keep ignoring, breaking, avoiding or changing laws simply because it's the path of least resistance. Eventually it will come to a head. Paying newly minted Bahamians for land is definitely not a resolution.

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DonAnthony 1 month, 1 week ago

The world is not black or white it is gray. There will be no solution without compromise, hopefully wiser, sane heads will prevail.

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My2centz 1 month, 1 week ago

Grey areas, for Haitians and those of Haitian descent, are constantly created even where the law is black and white. It has only created more entitlement this group. Imagine what payouts for land they squatted on would do?

Since most of the shanty town residents were supposedly legal, any measures to provide housing for those affected by Dorian would include them. And all found illegal, should be deported.

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DonAnthony 1 month, 1 week ago

No need for expensive payouts, simply swap for crown land which we have an abundance of.

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My2centz 1 month, 1 week ago

Swap the crown land and give it to Haitian nationals, and 1st/2nd generation "Bahamians" so they can reconstruct tin and plywood homes? These lands are not owed to them. The government needs to build and manage any construction for legal, but homeless Dorian survivors.

However, if the Bahamas government wants to hand out crown land, they need to hand it out to people whose ancestors toiled it for hundreds of years. We see enough money flowing out of the country by these "Bahamians" which contributes to Haiti's GDP. So naturally, we give them land so that they can treat it as a province of Haiti.

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BahamaPundit 1 month, 1 week ago

An injunction is a remedy at Equity. Equitable remedies require that the applicant applying for the remedy come to the Courts with clean hands. How anyone in breach of building codes and illegally residing in The Bahamas could obtain injunctive relief, as in the situation of removing shanty towns in The Bahamas, is beyond legal imagining. See Walker Morris Injunctions

Injunctions: A matter of [equitable] principle the equitable maxim of clean hands. That is, anyone looking to equity for a remedy must be free of wrong doing him/herself; equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy. Where fairness requires, a remedy will be provided even if one does not exist by right at law;

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John 1 month, 1 week ago

you know this (that you posted) is legal garbage, don't you. The issues of squatting and breaching the building codes are two separate and distinct actions. The 'clean hands' does not apply in this instance.

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joeblow 1 month, 1 week ago

Parliament writes the laws in this country. If government makes the necessary amendments to the so called squatters rights law, the courts will have no choice but to enforce it. The question is are they smart enough to do that!!!

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 1 week ago

Carl Bethel couldn't get a conviction on the Frank Smith corruption case and will unlikely get a conviction on the Shameless Shane Gibson corruption case. Miilions and millions of dollars spent by the Minnis-led FNM government on investigations and trials for what???!!!

And now we have Rights Bahamas threatening to unleash the judiciary of The Bahamas against the Bahamian people because they know our Duckin' & Dodgin' Doc and incompetent AG are in fact on the side of the many thousands of illegal Haitian aliens. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that the Minnis-led FNM government has yet to begin rounding up the many thousands of illegal Haitian aliens and arranging for their deportation back to Haiti at the earliest possible time. Just ask yourself: Why is nothing being done to protect the national security interests of the Bahamian people?!

How many times have we seen this very same playbook over the last 40+ years where the illegal Haitain community have been allowed to use our very own judiciary against us as they have continued with their invasion of country?! And how many times have we seen our legislators fail to pass whatever legislation may be necessary to pave the way for the expeditious deportation of the many thousands of illegal Haitian aliens who are much too heavy an albatross around the necks of the vast majority of 'true' Bahamians? The Bahamian people are quite literally being suffocated to the point of extinction as a result of the ethnic cleansing objectives integrally tied to the invasion of our country by an overwhelming number of illegal Haitian aliens.

Any 'true' Bahamian who votes for a FNM candidate in the next general election needs to have their head examined.

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stillwaters 1 month, 1 week ago

If they manage to get rid of most of these illegals, they definitely have my vote next election

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stillwaters 1 month, 1 week ago

I still can't understand how illegals can own property and then dictate to the government of the country they are residing in illegally.

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TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

Won't be long before colony's politically appointed comrade AG Carl Wilshire, be's taking to pencil and paper. As your AG, I’m writing to you from Fox Hill cell, where I m confined for daring to even think of seeking the removal of an injunction placed against your elected go (KC) Freddy, yes, no ... Moral story. A Queen's Counsel is no legal eagle match be's going up in the court against likes of a King's Counsel - even when the opposing KC, be off out islands, undergoing long term medical recovery .... There is no chance, just be making this story up ....

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stillwaters 1 month, 1 week ago

If the owner of the property did sell the land fraudulently to illegals, is the whole fraudent, illegal sale now legal? And how can our government buy back these fraudulent, illegally gotten lands? Bit confusing

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Sickened 1 month, 1 week ago

First of all one has to prove that they own the land - if that can't be done then roll out. Next, they have to prove that the building was built with a permit - if that can't be done then tear it down. Next they have to prove that they are here legally - if that can't be done then roll out. Sympathy and sadness and poor and unsanitary don't even need to come into this.

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TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

Of the opinion that there have been many shantytowns previous legal land ownership reviews conducted by every single one the colony's smartest legal brain all them attorney generals, going way back to colony's post independence, Comrade AG Paul Adderley. yes, no .. AG Carl Wilhhire, needs pump up he legal skills, by starting do some legal shantytowns lands ownership reviews reading .... ..

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yari 1 month, 1 week ago

Fred Smith and the so-called ‘rights’ group should be ashamed for fighting for the illegals to live in squalor and allowing them to stay in harm’s way and die. There is no xenophobia rather there is enforcement of laws that exist to protect citizens. Why are they so anxious to move back into a unsanitary and unsafe location instead of improving their living conditions? I am tired of the ridiculous arguments from this group and their lawyers.

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Sickened 1 month, 1 week ago

That's unfair. Most Hatians are very kind and warm people. What you say is in poor taste.

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geostorm 1 month, 1 week ago

Ha, ha @ sickened. I see what you did there!

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TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

Before some you get too comfortable, I need remind you that there is a little known intriguing element to this story about the immigration status those living in shelters post Hurricane Dorian. that neither the 35 elected MP's, appointed senators, nor the local mainstream media for whatever reason, does not wants comrade populaces to be aware off ... that as we post to these hereto Tribune blog pages - there are actually a number of migrants citizens from we colony of out islands, who post Hurricane Dorian, have found themselves living in homeless shelters over in America and up in Canada, who are themselves attempting be claiming economic asylum status. .... and, there own government of AG Carl Wilshire, has never once even called their names, nor offered them loaf bread ..... to understand this in better complex, those living in the homeless shelters abroad, are made up of out islanders of dark brown, darker brown, light brown and yes, even the white skinned colours ... No, I'm not just making this up ....

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My2centz 1 month, 1 week ago

If I didn't know any better, I would believe Dorian only impacted Haitian/Haitian descent. The coverage and compassion shown toward one group, while villinizing or ignoring the other "the natives" shows who the real victims on xenophobia are.

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stillwaters 1 month, 1 week ago

Last time I read, Canada said that the majority of Haitians flocking there, running from Trum p, will be deported because they don't qualify for asylum.

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Cas0072 1 month, 1 week ago

Generally speaking, squatters are supposed to show improvements to the land or existing structure. Turning green space into eyesore shanty towns is not an improvement. The whole notion is ludicrous and can be shot down by a competent attorney. In fact, the government should countersue for the impact to the environment, years of unpaid property taxes, and failure to adhere to building laws and codes.

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John 1 month, 1 week ago

FIRST AND FOREMOST, Government must answer a most begging question: IS CLIMATE CHANGE REAL? And if it is, what will be future events in the Bahamas as far as hurricane damage, flooding and loss of life in relation to thes catastrophes are concerned? Will properties that are presently occupied become uninhabitable or too dangerous to live on? What will be the government's revised policy as it relates to building/residing along or near the coast and on low lying flood-prone land? What efforts will be made to make the building code for homes and other buildings more hurricane resistant, especially with regards to high winds and flooding? What efforts is government prepared to make to ensure that there are hurricane rated (Now to category 5) shelters (also flood and wind resistant) available in highly populated areas like Marsh Harbour , Freeport, West End and New Providence? And if government is to seize properties like the MUD, Pigeon Peas and Sand Banks, what evidence is there to show that these areas sustained more damage than other areas hit by Dorian. Or that the death rate per population size was greater than other areas hit on Grand Bahama and Abaco. Or was the damage merely due to improperly constructed homes. And of the 60 plus persons comfirmed dead, how many were from these areas. And of the 450 plus persons still missing, how many were from The Mud, Pigeon Pea or sand Banks? While the hurricane event may present the convenience to deal with the long and vexing problems of shantytowns, occupied mostly by illegal immigrants, government must tread carefully to ensure it doesn't set precedents that infringe on the rights of Bahamians to have free access and unincumbered ues of their properties.

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mandela 1 month, 1 week ago

If the government doesn't have the right to do what needs to be done on behalf of their citizens and our country, our homeland for whom they represent then we the citizens might as well say our Bahamas belong to them the illegals. Right is right wrong is wrong, we the citizens do not want shantytowns, we don't want another city within a city here, if the rights group care so much they can let them move in with them, why should our citizens, pure Bahamians who have inherited ties to the Bahamas have to follow building codes, some have been for decades, before independence, trying to acquire crown land that they have a right to but to no avail and persons want to come in illegally and expect to get land for free BULLS%#T, F$$K THAT, Then these persons can go to the bank with land paper in hand and borrow money on the land, while Bahamians have been trying to do the same thing, some all of their lives dead and gone and were not given this opportunity. All the leaders before Dr. Mr. Fix it Minnis were jockers when it came to immirgration The FNM seems to be on the right track, and if they allow any foolishness they will go down, down in history as traitors to the Bahamas and its citizens just like their predecessors. This is our land our Bahamas so F$$K THEM. If you are here illegally you NEEDS to go, we don't care where you go you just can't, stay here, or we will get you out forcefully if NEEDED. Hip hip hurray for Doc. at this time, just have to wait and see if this is hot air or steam, don't sing it bring it

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 1 week ago

Aside from lip service, what has Duckin' & Dodgin' Dimwitted Doc done to protect our southern trritorial borders and aggressively enforce our immigration laws? Answer: Not a damn thing! The Minnis-led FNM government has yet to begin rounding up the many thousands of illegal Haitian aliens and arranging for their deportation back to Haiti at the earliest possible time. Just ask yourself: Why is nothing being done to protect the national security interests of the Bahamian people?!

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TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

Here is what we're left to believe and by all accounts it is the gospel truth!
The five-and-a-half acre property that housed what become known as Pigeon Peas Shantytown, has long been owned by Abaco farmer Comrade Ricky.
On other hand, the Mudd, the larger neighboring shantytown, has forever been owned by the colony's government.
It is also a well established fact that farmer Rickey, has never received a red penny for rental from any the Pigeon Peas residents, nothing, not a red penny.
Does begs question that
if the two legitimate lands owners, have never financially benefited - then someone else, must have pocked possibly in the millions of dollars off illegal rentals. ........
That no such magnitude corruption - could've taken place under watchful eyes both mainstream political parties elected and appointed politicians - without lots monies passing under the table, yes, no .... calls for the Queen to appoint a Royal Commission of Inquiry**

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My2centz 1 month, 1 week ago

Then whomever was collecting rent on the Crown Land, has the squatters claim. It cannot be the "tenants". However, if it's a Bahamian who makes the claim, I have no doubt the land granted or payout, will be confiscated or offset due to a hefty price tag for code violations and back taxes.

So I'm curious to know what level of accountability a non Bahamian would have as "landlord". If a non Bahamian, according to AG, can obtain crown land though squatting, they can be held legally accountable for "owning" and profiting from that land. It's unbelievable how the constitution can be manipulated to legalize illegality.

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OldFort2012 1 month, 1 week ago

I really don’t see what the problem is. You re-zone those lands as not for building because of flood potential as a public safety measure. Which means no one can legally build anything. If they cannot apply for a building permit, they cannot build to code. Let them then sue for damages if they claim property rights. They will get a judgement in the year 3000.

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empathy 1 month, 1 week ago

We continue to approach immigration from western Hispaniola emotionally rather than rationally. However despite our past mistakes and xenophobia we should use the best available evidence and expertise to address “land ownership, property rights and building code” issues.

If the experts, after study and careful consideration, judge that it would not be safe to build in these communities, or on any other site, then we should follow their advice. Similarly, if those same experts recommend improvement in building standards such as building on stilts in flood prone areas, additional struts and bracing of our roofs etc, then those should also be adopted.

If we are a country-of-laws and we want to avoid chaos, protect and advance all people within the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, then we all have to obey our laws. Safety comes first. Respect for everyone is a given. We should not be intimidated by anyone and if we do-the-right-thing we would have done better than most countries faced with these problems.

We will never get there until we institute a practice of fairness and compliance to our laws by All. This includes the employers who should ensure their employees have the appropriate legal documents, contribute to their NIB and ensure that they are paid a living wage.

We need to establish adequate counsellor services in Haiti; prosecute human-smugglers; and prosecute employers who take advantage of illegal immigrants. We have to solve the vexing problem of birth-right citizenship, the vain of the Bahamian electorate and the facilitator of these recurring tragedies. We need to acknowledge our mistakes and address them moving forward (and yes “upward, onward, together “).

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 1 week ago

We don't need to do a damn thing but round up and deport to Haiti all illegal Haitian aliens, no matter how young or old they may be. They belong in Haiti and should be the responsibility of the government of Haiti. The fact that they really don't have a government is entirely their doing and problem, not ours. We Bahamians will soon not have a government ourselves because of their overwhelming crushing weight on our small nation. And if the so called human rights organizations have a problem with that then they should be on the ground in Haiti trying to help out the 11 million Haitian nationals that occupy and have virtually destroyed the western half of the island of Hispaniola. Or are they proposing that we let the 11 million Haitians still in Haiti join the 80,000 of their brethren who are already illegally in the Bahamas? We Bahamians have done more than enough for illegal Haitian aliens over many decades and now must start aggressively looking after ourselves as a matter of survival.

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moncurcool 1 month, 1 week ago

It is downright sinful, sad, shameful and pathetic how this so called rights Bahamas group is always fighting of the rights of illegals in the Bahamas and not the rights of legals. I have yet to hear these groups tell illegals to go home or not come here.

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John 1 month, 1 week ago

Well watching this tropical disturbance off the coast of Washington, DC and New York. Even though its being pushed away by a winter storm (blizzard) it still seems to want to hit the coast this week. At least there will be high waves and coastal surge.

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SP 1 month, 1 week ago

Excellent observation that I also frequently question. This rights Bahamas group never once advocated any cause for "Bahamians".

A more fitting name for them would be "Illegal Haitian Rights"!

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TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

Oh for the days when Queen's official opposition FNM, were in deep state mind, more aligned with that Bah Mar's original developer comrade Sarkis Izmirlian, who the red shirts had viewed as being unfairly attacked by the Chinese government's China Construction America (CCA) and its affiliates, yes, no .... Lest we forget a time not too distant back when the same FNM opposition party's views which were more aligned with those of the Miami-based Cuban Democracy Movement, yes, no ... even supporting Cuban's call to boycott the colony of the Bahamaland .... Can't just be running around makes up how the red shirts have changed the rules of crassness ....but we the populaces, does know that there is no way mask crasiness ....it's still crasy nonetheless ....yes,no ....

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birdiestrachan 1 month, 1 week ago

Bethel knows what time it is. He can do nothing without the Drama King. especially when the boast is that The FNM Party was given an undisclosed amount of money.

It is impossible for persons to claim that land when the homes were built so close together. How will the land be divided?

The Drama King should get a judge of his choosing and have a judicial Review against Dorian and have Dorian appear In Court.

Rights Bahamas is feeling its power. and they are happy to do their best to cast the Bahamas. in in a bad light they do not love this Country. Dorian came to show the Bahamian people much. I hope they learn

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birdiestrachan 1 month, 1 week ago

Rights Bahamas is dragging the Bahamas name through the mud. Them and them alone It will not work.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 1 month, 1 week ago

This all started with SLOP and your kind!

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TalRussell 1 month, 1 week ago

Has wonder, if the colony's comrade AG Carl Wilshir, isn't playing some kinds Three-card Monte.confidence game in which the victims (Abacoians) is tricked into believing that:
Firstly, the Imperialists governing red shirts, needed appoint labour minister Dion to go forth to recruit 60 warm bodies to serve on a useless Shantytown Commission.
Secondly, your elected government must halt all evictions and demolishing cause the judge said to leave the shantytowns alone.
Thirdly, the government can't move now that King's Counsel Freddy, be's recovering from falling hands first from out sky.
Yes, no ... . you can't just make this insane crasiness story up ...

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Engineer 1 month, 1 week ago

Xenophobic, really? What permits were ever applied for and what approvals were applied for. Sorry but these areas are absolutely wrong and illegal under our laws.

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Foxie 1 month, 1 week ago

Simple question.... If one is an illegal, not a citizen by birth, has not been granted citizenship legally how does one have any rights or entitlement to claim ownership of any land in this country.

Fred Smith Q.C. Needs to be charged with treason for manipulating the Courts of this country and his papers taken from him shredded and put on a sailboat with the rudder set for his true home country.

Shame on him and his legal team & the judge that allowed them self to be manipulated as blood is on their hands. Like the old people say 'God don't like ugly'...

Also, it is time for the bungling, unqualified wanna be so called pompous ass Attorney General to hang his hat on the nail, pack his bundle and go home in shame.

As Bahamians we can no longer sit idly by and watch our country disappear before our eyes. The government is allowing foreigners to buy up our land and now they want to pay foreigners for our land that Fred Smith is helping them steal.

Enough is enough.

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geostorm 1 month, 1 week ago

For goodness sake, it's time to move forward with doing what's right for this country. Acquire that land and do what is right for the citizens of the Bahamas. No illegal immigrant has any right to what belongs to the citizens of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. What is the arguing about? Forward, upward, onward together!

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