By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
HUMAN Rights Bahamas has condemned what it called an “illegal” and “regressive” invasion of homes at a shanty town in Abaco yesterday.
In a brief press statement, the local human rights group said there was no legal justification for “brute force” to enter people’s homes and remove personal items.
The organisation rebuked the government yesterday following a joint operation at The Farm shanty town near Treasure Cay, Abaco.
A multi-agency sting resulted in the arrest of illegal immigrants and other persons who are suspected of being involved in various criminal offences; the seizure of suspected stolen goods; and the disconnection of a large quantity of illegally operated generators and gas tanks.
Eviction notices were also handed out to residents.
“Human Rights Bahamas utterly condemns the illegal, aggressive and regressive invasion of people’s homes in Abaco and the theft of their property at gunpoint,” HRB said in a brief statement.
“There is no legal justification for breaking and entering into family homes and removing personal belongings. People who have struggled and suffered through Hurricane Dorian yesterday had their groceries, their personal items and appliances cruelly stolen from them by the government authorities.
“It is nowhere near enough for the Ministry of Works, which is not a law enforcement agency, to claim that the residents are guilty of this or that offence. Everyone in the Bahamas is innocent until proven guilty. Where is the court order that allowed this heinous action to take place? As far as we know, it does not exist.
“This was nothing but a display of brute force and intimidation, calculated to try and frighten and scare off the targeted victims. The intended audience for this shameful spectacle is clearly a political one.
“The government has already tried to demolish these poor, suffering people’s homes several times. They have been met by a legal challenge in that regard, and so now they are pandering to the shallowest, most crass and xenophobic elements of our society. The government should not think they will get away with this. It will end up being yet another acute embarrassment of the Bahamas both in the courts and on the international stage. In the end, justice will be done.”
A statement from the Ministry of Public Works said illegally constructed access roadways were closed; and signs written in English and Creole were erected.
Signs were also posted on illegally erected buildings, the government’s statement said. The signs warn inhabitants of the legal prohibition of any new construction, and of the intention of the government to demolish all of the illegally constructed buildings.
The armed forces also will be on the ground to maintain a presence and enforce eviction notices.