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Shanty Legal Fight: Smith Warns Govt Cannot Use Dorian To Take Away People’S Property Rights

The extensive damage and destruction to The Mudd from Hurricane Dorian. Photo: Gonzalo Gaudenzi/AP

The extensive damage and destruction to The Mudd from Hurricane Dorian. Photo: Gonzalo Gaudenzi/AP

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

ATTORNEY Fred Smith says the property rights of residents from The Mudd and Pigeon Peas survived Hurricane Dorian’s destruction of buildings in their communities.

He suggested that though the government has issued a prohibition order against residential and commercial construction in the areas, the legal fight over the future of the property is not complete.

“The government couldn’t take away their property rights before Dorian and so the government cannot legally use the disaster of Dorian to now take away the same property rights that existed before Dorian,” he said. “Just like every other community, they have a right to rebuild.”

photo

Attorney Fred Smith QC

Many of The Mudd and Pigeon Peas residents are staying in shelters around New Providence, anxious about their next move. Some dream about going to the United States, some plan to relocate to Haiti but many say they want to return to Abaco.

Mr Smith, QC, said it is their right to have whatever remains of their community “respected just like everybody else in every other devastated community in Abaco.”

“Just because the shantytowns may not look nice or may not be built to code or they don’t smell nice or they are a poor community or that they are mainly composed of people of Haitian ethnic origin, doesn’t mean that they are not entitled to due process in respect of their property rights under Article 27 of the Constitution,” he said in a statement to The Tribune.

Splintered wood, cracked concrete and scattered belongings now lay where the communities once existed as the largest shantytowns in the country, home to more than 3,000 people, many of them legal residents. As the decimation of the shanty towns became clear, some attacked Mr Smith on social media, accusing him of facilitating the habitation of unsafe living conditions.

Mr Smith is part of a legal fight that blocked the government’s plans to eradicate shanty towns in New Providence and by extension Abaco.

“I can see that rebuilding must be according to code,” Mr Smith said yesterday, adding that the government should either help residents rebuild with sanitation and stronger homes or provide alternative property or homes.

“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. So the prohibition order, if it should have been made at this time or at all, should not have been made or only directed to the shanty towns; if it was to be made at all, it should have been a prohibition order in respect of call communities, not just the Haitian Bahamian ones. They have a right to go back into possession on the same basis that they were in possession before Dorian. Dorian doesn’t give the government the lawful power to dispossess them just like the government didn’t have the lawful power to do so before Dorian.”

Attorney General Carl Bethel declined to comment yesterday.

Earlier this week, he said the destruction of The Mudd and Pigeon Peas shows the low-lying areas are unsafe for human habitation in the face of powerful storms.

Comments

ThisIsOurs 3 weeks, 5 days ago

"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"

And I would assume the first criteria is, you're in the country legally and you "owned" property.

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Godson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

All the fundamentals should be in place or begin the process. Indeed, this present an opportunity for proper strategic and yet fair regulation to ensure a better and strengthen community, whether it applies to Pigeon Peas, the Mud or elsewhere.

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The_Oracle 3 weeks, 5 days ago

The wind, Rain, snow and Sunshine may enter, but the Queen must ask permission. A Man Home is his castle. Undermine that, and there will be little left to save.

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OldFort2012 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Property rights? On illegal abusive dwellings built without any permission on land they do not own? Is this man nuts?

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Godson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

In all fairness, the law does allow a person who have been in open possession without being disturbed for 12 years or more a right of possession.

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joeblow 3 weeks, 5 days ago

. they have been 'disturbed' repeatedly over the years and notices to vacate were even issued, more than once (if I am not mistaken), its just that the gov't lacked the will to enforce!

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My2centz 3 weeks, 5 days ago

The government can also take lands away for unpaid property tax who would have paid taxes during these 12 years? Furthermore, if persons are illegally in the country that law would not apply to then.

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Caybound 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Ok, then if that squatter is then deported, wouldn’t they lose that property right?

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proudloudandfnm 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Gotta disagree with Fred on this one. This was never their property. The shanty towns are obviously unsafe and unhealthy. For the good of the community they must not be allowed to rebuild....

Fred this argument of yours is insane.

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tell_it_like_it_is 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Agreed. If legal Bahamians can't just go and claim land without later paying the consequences...how can immigrants do this with land they don't own?

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buddah17 3 weeks, 5 days ago

In the "old days" I played rugby with Fred Smith, and he was smart, courteous, likable and a great player... I have followed his career somewhat after that and was struck with his determination and dedication to what he believes in and standing up for what is right and wrong. However......................... I cannot support him on this one. Why? Because (in my opinion,) he is asking (allowing?) people to go back and live in real filth, germs and squalor. To make matters worse, IF the person is illegal, WHY should they be allowed to rebuild or to continue to live illegally in our country? If they are long term residents, they should be afforded a hearing, and if they have Bahamian sponors, family or similar, given residency. Others with no support or roots in our country, should be relocated back to where they came from, or to a country willing to take them in. We just do NOT have infrustructure, social services or financial resouces to take care of whomever wishes to come to The Bahamas, and overstay their time... And I am NOT just refering to people from Haiti. EVERY country has good and bad people.... (Fortunately and unfortunately.)

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henny 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I agree wholeheartedly with you on this one. At the same time I sympathize with those who lost all that they had. Nowhere in the world, unless 3rd world country, would I think anyone would allow human beings to live in squalor or even think it is acceptable. This situation has gone on for too long and it needs to be abandoned. Solutions need to be in the works and immigration processing needs to be initiated no matter what. Better control of the borders needs to be taken also.

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joeblow 3 weeks, 5 days ago

The first thing the government should do is revoke the residency/citizenship of all Mudd and Pigeon Pea residents who do not have evidence of a landing document recorded with the Dept of Immigration. It should be assumed that any "documents" they would have come into was done fraudulently.

They should then increase the fines for building without a permit to $10,000 retroactively and fine all who constructed buildings in those shanty towns who want to file a claim against the gov't. This can then be used as a basis to deny any future work permits, residency status etc.

MInnis better grab this bull by the horns instead of placating his Haitian "brothers and sisters" to the detriment of Bahamians.

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Godson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

The government, in the rebuilding of those communities ravage by Dorian (including the Mud & Pigeon Peas), ought to grasp this opportunity to institute law and order and lay the foundation for a strong, better and law abiding community. It present an opportunity to do things different and enact and enforce social regulations and improve building codes. Whether they are capable of realizing this and seizing the moment is another thing.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Wake up Bahamians! Can't you see that PM Minnis and QC Smith are really of one mind when it comes the Haitianization of the Bahamas, but that only QC Smith is bold and brazen enough to tell us exactly what's on his mind? PM Minnis has all along been outright coy and deceitful to the Bahamian people about his obvious nonchalance towards the many problems our country has experienced and continues to endure because of its overwhelmingly large and unsustainable illegal Haitian community.

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Naughtydread 3 weeks, 5 days ago

LOOOOL Damn I'll have some of what ever Frank is smoking. This man is literally bat shit crazy.

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joeblow 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Fred might want to consider reading the following sections of the Buildings Regulation Act:

17 The Minister shall from time to time publish a code, to be known as the Building Code, which shall specify the standards required, the methods of construction and building and the material to be used in any building operation, including provisions as to plumbing and electrical installations in any building and as to all such other matters of whatsoever nature for which in the opinion of the Minister it is desirable in the interests of the safety, including safety from fire, health and welfare of persons in and about any building, that provision should be made.

18 No action shall lie against the Crown, the Minister, the Buildings Control Officer or any person acting under the authority of the Minister in respect of any loss or damage whatsoever suffered by any person through the exercise, in good faith, by the Minister, the Buildings Control Officer or by such person of the powers conferred upon them by this Act, save only in respect of any loss or damage which arises directly from the negligence of the Minister, the Buildings Control Officer or of any such person as aforesaid in the carrying out of any operation in the exercise of these powers.

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Sickened 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Smith will soon be arguing that the people housed in shelters are now the rightful owners of those shelters. What a crazy thought process Smith has.

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Fred Smith is a national treasure and hero. Be very careful who you allow to govern you because the tendency is to take away your freedoms and liberties to which you are entitled. First they go after the Haitian or foreigner, the next day it is Bahamians. This only grows stronger the longer one has been governing. There is no Bahamian living today that has done more to ensure our constitutional rights, hold governments accountable and preserve our democracy. May he live to a ripe old age, we need him.

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Dawes 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Does anyone know who actually owns the land these areas are on? Is it crown land or owned by someone. If owned by someone were they paying rent for being there. If so then the Government should also go after the person who owned the land and charge them with not building to code. At a guess if it's crown land no one cares, and if privately owned, that person powerful enough to do what they want and to hell with the law of this country. In which case these ares will be back soon.

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Islandboy242242 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I would imagine it would be pretty hard to prove what house was where after all this mess. The survey dept needs to figure out the adjacent and legitimate private properties then cordon off the shanty areas and figure out what is privately owned by the original land owners and what is crown land to be made into green space or memorial. I don't really see how anyone can prove their shanty building was in a particular 30x30 area after all of this destruction and how you can prove how long you were there for prior to the storm. But I guess that gray area can play both sides of the argument...

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BahamaRed 3 weeks, 5 days ago

WTH is Fred Smith on...

"I can see that rebuilding must be according to code,” Mr Smith said yesterday, adding that the government should either help residents rebuild with sanitation and stronger homes or provide alternative property or homes.

Is he on some kind of LSD... the governments job is not to help people build their homes according to the required standard.

Secondly are these even Bahamian citizens or residents, who are these illegals making demands on the government. In what part of the world can you go as a foreigner and make demands of that country's government. SMH- only in The Bahamas.

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

But they are not all illegals, not even a majority illegals. In fact the government’s own comprehensive survey of these shanty towns found that 80% of residents there have some form of legal status. Minister Foulkes said the same himself.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 5 days ago

My creole friend, you may as well add an icon of the Haitian flag alongside your comments posted on this website.

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Wrong again. My family was granted crown land and settled in 1782. I am as Bahamian as there comes! I have just stated the facts, you may not like them but they are facts just the same. 80% of these persons have some form of legal status, just like the Haitian you have employed who you are so fond of. So you said before you are all for legal Haitians so I expect you will fight for these Haitian’s rights as well. Wonderful to have you on our side.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 5 days ago

There's a difference between legally obtaining official papers and other documents to enter and reside in the Bahamas and fraudulently obtaining such papers and documents. You are either oblivious to that fact or simply chose to ignore the history of many well publicized fraudulent schemes by which official papers and documents have been obtained by illegal Haitian aliens from corrupt politicians and equally corrupt senior immigration officials. The latest scheme involved senior Haitian diplomat personnel purportedly posted by the government of Haiti to the Haitian embassy in The Bahamas. You might also wish to familiarize yourself with the very instrumental role that former Abaco MP Edison Key played in facilitating the fraudulent issue of official papers and documents to many illegal Haitian aliens in Abaco over many years. By the way, I still suspect you have very strong ties to our illegal Haitian community even if not in a familial way.

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

The govt is satisfied and states that 80% of these residents have legal status. Case closed. No one gives a hoot what conspiracies you have concocted in your mind.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 5 days ago

You certainly would not have expected Dion Foulkes to state otherwise. He's a well known longstanding sympathizer of Haitians who illegally entered the Bahamas and is part of the reason why this problem has been allowed to fester for decades, to the point where it is now taking down the entire Bahamas. In every country of the world you are immediately stripped of your citizenship or residential status upon discovery that it was fraudulently obtained. Disagree as you may, that's a fact.

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BahamaRed 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Are they citizens, legal status could just mean a work permit, not even residency.

I fail to see how the government is responsible for building homes for residents of a shantytown. Please direct me to which country builds homes for non-citizens- because I will need to move myself to that country ASAP. Furthermore, how can you expect a government to do for foreigners (legal status or not) what they won't do for citizens (legal) of the country,

Fred Smith needs several seats, cause if not for him those shantytowns would have been rebuilt or demolished prior to the hurricane; and 300 odd Haitians wouldn't be unaccounted for. SMDH

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

We do not know the breakdown, but your point is well taken. We are still left with the vexing problem of 2000 homeless persons in our shelters who are overwhelmingly Haitian and who overwhelmingly have legal status. Are we going to drag these persons out, most of whom have children born in this country and deport them? I can tell you that will never happen. Do we simply turn them out homeless on the streets? It seems to me we have to help provide some assistance in providing shelter. We may not have a legal obligation but we certainly have a moral one. These Haitians are here because Bahamians want cheap Labour. Many times Haitians have been exploited. It is persons like mudda sic who would rather have cheap foreign Labour than to pay a Bahamian to do the same work. Then these same hypocritical Bahamians complain about Haitians. Stop hiring them and they will not stay here! So our hands are not clean we are very large contributors to this terrible problem so we should be expected to help fix it.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Repost: There's a difference between legally obtaining official papers and other documents to enter and reside in the Bahamas and fraudulently obtaining such papers and documents. You are either oblivious to that fact or simply chose to ignore the history of many well publicized fraudulent schemes by which official papers and documents have been obtained by illegal Haitian aliens from corrupt politicians and equally corrupt senior immigration officials. The latest scheme involved senior Haitian diplomat personnel purportedly posted by the government of Haiti to the Haitian embassy in The Bahamas. You might also wish to familiarize yourself with the very instrumental role that former Abaco MP Edison Key played in facilitating the fraudulent issue of official papers and documents to many illegal Haitian aliens in Abaco over many years. By the way, I still suspect you have very strong ties to our illegal Haitian community even if not in a familial way.

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Wrong again. I have no Haitian ancestry, I have no Haitian friends, I do not personally know any Haitians. I live in Long Island where there are no Haitians and unlike a self acknowledged hypocrite like you I have never hired a Haitian in my life.

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

By the way I live in Long Island and we do not have a Haitian problem here. In fact I do not know of a single Haitian legal or otherwise living on this island. We do not have Haitians here because no one hires Haitians. I have never hired a Haitian in my life. Bahamians have their own greedy, selfish selves to blame for this problem. So as Bahamians we need to help fix it.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I don't think it would be wise for the entire Bahamas to practice the kind of employment discrimination you suggest exists on Long Island. What do Long Islanders do with all the illegal Haitian aliens landing on their shores in overloaded rickety sloops that are barely seaworthy? On second thought please don't answer that....I almost certainly would be upset by your answer. By the way, I don't think you're a Long Islander, but that's just me.

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

It would be wise to educate yourself before you write such fictitious drivel. Long Island is the worse place for any Haitian sloop to land. It has happened several times and invariably every Haitian is rounded up and deported to Nassau. There are no Haitians living here to hide or help them, or people like you who hire them and help them.

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My2centz 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I don't understand. This is exactly what Bahamians should do...do it yourself or pay the cost for a Bahamian. You cannot be a part of the problem then complain about the side effects.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I've had only one Haitian caretaker/handyman helping me look after my properties for several decades now. He entered the Bahamas after applying and obtaining the legal right to work here many years ago. He speaks fluent English. He is able to drive, and he is generously compensated. He visits family members he has in Haiti once a year at my expense. Whenever his work permit comes up for renewal Immigration/Labour officials are provided with the relevant documentation they need to ascertain whether a suitably qualified Bahamian exists who wants to apply for the job. Only once did a Bahamian apply for the job but it was quickly learned he had a criminal record (abuse of a girl friend) and my wife was not comfortable with him being hired. He has always rented modest accommodations - not in a shanty town. I readily admit he sends back home to his family as much of his disposable income as possible. There's a right way and a wrong way to treat a Haitian national who has legally entered our country and is able to be legally gainfully employed. Our nation's problem is with the enormous number of Haitian nationals who illegally entered the Bahamas, many of whom have since fraudulently obtained official papers and documents with the help of corrupt politicians and equally corrupt immigration officials. Enough said!

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Save us the sad sob story. You have contributed to this problem by hiring foreign Labour. In all these years you could not find a single Bahamian to fulfill this role. Give me a break. Has this man any family here in the Bahamas? Has he fathered any children here that are a burden on us tax payers? You are a HYPOCRITE and should recuse yourself from all discussion on this matter save to pay and make recompense for the problems you have caused taxpayers like me who have never hired a Haitian. This is nothing more than a pathetic sad excuse to save money instead of paying a fair wage to a Bahamian.

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Several DECADES? Are these people for real? Not a single qualified Bahamian in several decades. Wow. Says a lot about what they think of Bahamians and how selfish and cheap they are. It is so called Bahamians like this that are destroying our country and have the temerity to complain.

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Well_mudda_take_sic 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I would not be at all surprised if the annual remuneration and benefits I pay to and on behalf of my caretaker/handyman exceed your annual compensation .....and I certainly wouldn't hire someone like you. In any event, you seem to have racist leanings which is not at all what our illegal Haitian problems are about.

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

You seem to hate paying Bahamians a fair wage. Sad.

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I am pro Bahamian unlike you. I only hire Bahamians. You rather pay a foreigner sub standard wages rather than pay a Bahamian a living wage. A hypocrite and traitor.

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Sickened 3 weeks, 5 days ago

'Bahamians have their own greedy, selfish...

There, you just admitted that your aren't Bahamian!

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DonAnthony 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I am most certainly a Bahamian but I am no hypocrite like most of my fellow Bahamians who have exploited Haitians for cheap Labour and now that the time comes to pay the bill wants to wash their hands clean. Mine are clean how about yours?

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ThisIsOurs 3 weeks, 5 days ago

The survey is probably as good statistically as the Tribune's survey. The people who feel like it respond.

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SP 3 weeks, 4 days ago

LOL...."Minister Foulkes" has as much integrity as Santa Claus!

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jackbnimble 3 weeks, 5 days ago

This man needs a personal ‘Dorian’! Couldn’t hear sh#t from him after all his people got killed and he suddenly resurrects to talk about property rights? If I were the Government I would leave that sh#t pile right there for another ten years or take the land back by Compulsory Acquisition if he’s bad let him bring the papers to show their claim to it

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My2centz 3 weeks, 5 days ago

This man is a walking hypcorisy. He fights for illegality using the law. What rights can people have to property they do not own. The government should have confiscated these properties a long time ago. They need to do it now.

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sheeprunner12 3 weeks, 5 days ago

He owns the magistrates and judges .......... SMH

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My2centz 3 weeks, 5 days ago

The top government lawyers seem in awe of him. It's as if they are not smart enough to realize that his words are often not in conformity with the law. And his antics and loudmouth only add to his popularity within his customer base:Haitians. A well trained lawyer, in a fair courtroom, could wipe the floor with him.

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BahamaPundit 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Jesus said "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." At the end of the day, what will happen in this matter will be determined by the Government and the Government alone. No lawyer has any real power. If the Government of the Bahamas choses to be overthrown and dictated to by a foreign power and its people, only the Government will be responsible and to blame.

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geostorm 3 weeks, 5 days ago

@Fred Smith is definitely not playing with a full deck. Why is anyone listening to him anyway? He should be ashamed to show his face. He played a role in the destruction of all those Haitian lives. The government tried to get those places regularized, but he fought it, resulting in the matter being tied up before the courts. Well now we have thousands of displaced people, whom the Bahamian people seem to have little love and tolerance for. What a mess he has created.

My advice to my fellow Bahamians is to put a little love in your hearts, those who are legal with the proper paperwork must be treated respectfully. Those who are illegal, should also be treated with respect but, shipped back to Haiti, no questions asked.

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sheeprunner12 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Time to clean up the Abaco shanties and the non Bahamian residents ....... stop the talk and do what is necessary to rebuild Abaco without the illegal housing and residents .......... amnesty, residency, naturalization or deportation. Whichever applies, do it. Use biometrics and GIS tracking.

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joeblow 3 weeks, 5 days ago

... the problem is many WITH paperwork have not gotten it legally. Do you know how many Haitians I have personally talked to, not married to Bahamians, with Bahamian passports who cannot even pronounce the names in the passports?? A Haitian with last name Brown, Bethel or Johnson, really?

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Gotoutintime 3 weeks, 5 days ago

How can they have "property rights" if they don't own the property!

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truetruebahamian 3 weeks, 5 days ago

I would think that Smith would hold his tongue. That property belongs to the original owners, not the squatters that infested the property. Think of this. Original owners were not able to rescue their property because of the inability to remove the squatters. Dorian did it for them. If Smith wishes to allow half of Haiti to invade tha Bahamas. At any point, a destroyed property reverts to its original ownership. In fact looking at the long run, the responsible Bahamians (lesser and greater} have less children (two to three maximum), so that they can be reasonably afforded and educated. Others have multitudes as is their culture. These will be overpowering the reasonable citizenry, they will expect the taxpayers to provide schooling health and security without giving fair contribution themselves. At the end game, we will lose our country as their progeny takes over our country in adulthood and enlists themselves as the destroyers of our world, as they at the same time are taught to hate and defame us, the quiet originators of our country almost 400 years in the past who had a better view of the furure. I cry for my heritage.

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Godson 3 weeks, 5 days ago

"My heritage"?.... if this FNM administration gets to complete this term in office, we'll barely own the clothes on our skin.

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BahamaPundit 3 weeks, 5 days ago

Moving forward, the Government of The Bahamas will have to address the fact that the Haitian people have weaponized immigration and weaponized reproduction to overthrow neighbouring countries. This is intentional and by design. In Montreal, I am informed that Haitians control the taxi service and only hire Haitians. Bit by bit, piece by piece, they are conquering The Bahamas. They have already, basically, monopolized the public health and school systems. Haitian gangs are controlling our streets and inner cities. They also appear to have infiltrated our Government at the highest levels. The status quo cannot remain without dire consequences for future Bahamians.

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Cas0072 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Fred Smith and cohorts have said time and again that Bahamians are charging the illegal immigrant squatters rent. This means that those Bahamians still have ownership of their properties, no? I also thought that was the exact reason why some charged rent. Whatever convoluted, unconstitutional, outright ridiculous argument that he comes up with, Minnis and crew will stand around in awe and pretend they have no defense. They will fire any sensible attorney capable of making quick work of this garbage claim.

It is not rocket science. Displaced Bahamians, whether generational or not, should have access to the same options for rebuilding their homes or renting proper dwellings. Work permit Haitians that are now without a job and illegals need to go back to the countries of origin. Fred Smith does this stuff to antagonize Bahamians and to make illegal immigrants even more resolved about the entitlements to which they are not entitled.

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TalRussell 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Comrade Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson, granted the interlocutory injunction blocking evictions and service disconnections but pending a judicial review of the Minnis administration’s policy to eradicate those communities. - it is the Attorney General Carl Wilshire, who interpreted the Justice's ruling, pending a judicial review as a can't do nothing to advance position of the government, yes, no ....

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