By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
RESIDENTS of The Farm shanty town in Abaco have hit out at what they claimed were heavy-handed tactics carried out during a raid on their community.
Their claims - which the The Tribune has not been able to independently corroborate - cast a shadow over the government’s attempts to stop the spread of unauthorised developments.
Several residents claimed that during the pre-dawn raid last Thursday officers at some point drew their sidearms.
One witness, speaking anonymously to The Tribune, claimed this was in response to him trying to record the raid on his cell phone.
This resident said he “ran for his life” after the officers threatening told him to put his phone away.
Last week’s raid saw law enforcement agencies descending on the shanty town in a joint sting operation, confiscating generators, food supplies, personal items, illegal contraband and arresting several residents for various alleged infractions.
The officers handed out notices of eviction and as the sun began to rise, a 40ft container, flatbed trucks and forklifts moved in.
Yesterday, one woman who only spoke Creole, told The Tribune through her English-speaking young daughter that having received an eviction notice, she has no idea what is next for her family because she has nowhere to go.
She claimed her generator and money were removed from the place she calls home.
Asked about some of the allegations, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Works Desmond Bannister said he would speak about the operation in Parliament today.
The young male shanty town resident said the community has been left scrambling after last week’s raid.
“I know the Haitians they built on land that there was no permission given to building on, but we still humans,” he said.
“Thursday I would say there were as many as 60 officers. There were just so much of them. When they came, they didn’t come professional like, asking questions or anything, they came with force, pulling weapons and stuff, ransacking things,” he alleged.
“... I ran away for my life I would say because I was trying to record them doing this injustice to people who have nowhere else to go.”
The man said he was born in The Bahamas and has status here, but he lives at The Farm like many Haitians of Bahamian descent.
“On Thursday these people were just digging in our houses and if you were not at home or at work they were going by force in these people house.
“The things that the Red Cross and Samaritan’s Purse gave them and some that they bought on their own like freezers and generators, these people took them away even though the people was providing their receipts for some of the things that they had.”
He insisted there was a better way to deal with the situation, adding that residents would have cooperated.
Another man told The Tribune he viewed the entire ordeal as “inhumane”.
“They chased us for our phones, they broke in people house what wasn’t even home. This is wrong,” he claimed.
In early February, Mr Bannister along with other government officials toured some parts of The Farm. He said it would not be an “overnight fix” but pledged to Abaconians that the government would take the necessary action to deal with unregulated developments on the island.
Aerial surveillance, released by Abaconians earlier that month, showed new construction taking place, with buildings being built more strategically and sturdier than what was seen in the irregular communities pre-Hurricane Dorian.
Following this, the Ministry of Public Works along with other authorities carried out the operation last week.
“The Ministry of Public Works co-ordinated a multi-agency operation, with the assistance and advice of the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF); the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF); Bahamas Customs Department; the Bahamas Department of Immigration; Bahamas Power and Light (BPL); and private sector partners in the unregulated community known as ‘The Farm’ near to Treasure Cay, Abaco,” a statement issued last week noted.
“The operation 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.
“The illegally constructed access roadways were closed; and signs written in English and Creole were erected. Signs were also posted on illegally erected buildings. 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 Royal Bahamas Police Force and Royal Bahamas Defence Force will maintain a presence in the area to enforce these notices as officers of the Ministry of Public Works carry out their legal mandate during the upcoming weeks.”