Human Rights Bahamas Hits Out At Bannister, Government Over Shanty Town Comments

DEPUTY Prime Minister and Minister of Works Desmond Bannister.

DEPUTY Prime Minister and Minister of Works Desmond Bannister.


Tribune Staff Reporter


HUMANS Rights Bahamas has again criticised the government for its response to calls from United Nation experts to halt demolition works of shanty towns on Abaco, saying recent comments made by Works Minister Desmond Bannister only “emphasises that the government’s actions are driven by discrimination and xenophobia.”

Mr Bannister is the second Cabinet minister to be chastised by the local human rights watchdog group this week after Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson was criticised for his statements on the matter.

The UN said the planned evictions and demolitions violate human rights to adequate housing and urged the Minnis administration to halt its plans to demolish dozens of homes on the storm impacted island.

However, both Mr Bannister and Mr Johnson have suggested that the government will not be swayed from its plans, arguing that the Bahamas is a country of laws that must be upheld.

On Tuesday, Mr Bannister told reporters Bahamians must decide if they want to live in a country like the Bahamas or a country like Haiti where there is “dirt, garbage, shantytowns all over the place.”

He also said exercises involving shanty towns in New Providence will be conducted soon, as residents have complained about illegal structures springing up.

Responding to his remarks yesterday, Rights Bahamas said: “As for the unfortunate remarks of the Deputy Prime Minister Desmond Bannister, they only emphasise that the government’s actions are driven by discrimination and xenophobia.

“He is now the second Cabinet minister, after Immigration Minister Elsworth Johnson, to make flippant public remarks reminiscent of the intolerant utterances a former US President Donald Trump, who called Haiti and African nations ‘shhole countries.’

“Nevertheless, Bannister is correct: the Bahamas should not want to be like what Haiti is today,” the group added.

“The breakdown of democracy, human rights and civil society in that long suffering country is the result of a number of geopolitical and historical factors – not least the total disrespect and utter disregard for the rule of law by successive governments, for example that of François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, the dictator, who rode roughshod overdue process, the judiciary, and individual rights and freedoms.”

It continued: “We urge Mr Bannister and his colleagues to stop pushing us in the direction of Haiti and other failed states through their dictatorial, ‘might makes right’ policies and actions. We implore them to act like they are in a modern democracy:

“Respect the courts, respect the rule of law, respect due process. Stop riding roughshod over constitutional rights.”

The Supreme Court in 2018 granted an injunction protecting shanty town homes in New Providence from destruction pending an outcome of a judicial review over the matter.

Government officials, however, have said homes in The Farm in Abaco and elsewhere are not subject to that injunction.

Progressive Liberal Party Leader Phillip “Brave” Davis recently told a local daily that the government should wait until the judicial review is completed before it moves to demolish homes.

Yesterday, Rights Bahamas commended Mr Davis for his “defence of due process and the rule of law on the question of the government’s egregious, extra-judicial home demolition project.”

The Ministry of Works spearheaded the demolition of 45 “incomplete and unoccupied” structures in The Farm in April.

Last week, Mr Bannister said the government was ready to continue its actions in the community which could begin as early as this week.

However, sources on the ground told this newspaper that no occupied buildings have yet been demolished.

For his part, Social Services Minister Frankie Campbell told reporters this week that his ministry will offer some assistance to displaced shanty town residents affected by the government’s demolition exercises, regardless of their legal status.


birdiestrachan 8 months, 2 weeks ago

how long does an injunction take 2018 seems to be a long time ago?


bogart 8 months, 2 weeks ago

...er,....did all govt personnel and families , friends etc., responsible for decision making past, present or future ...have to disclose that dere cooks, maids, gardeners, handyman and childrens an relivates, other persons corrently or have known to reside in these illegal poor human living conditions shantytowns ???....


licks2 8 months, 2 weeks ago

The court did not placed an injunction for houses build after Dorian. . .the Haitian Human Rights organization must know that!!


And to say some of them are here on work permits?? Government needs to place a moratorium on work permits from Haiti for the next five years. . .clear out the shanty towns then start all over. . .if Haitian wish to come here and work on permits. . .regular housing is a must. . .NO SHANTY TOWNS ALLOWED!!


TalRussell 8 months, 2 weeks ago

My Comrades, I repeat, no way in hell have cleared hundreds of acres of lands and then to import tons materials and equipment required to construct the hundreds of dwellings and businesses without the royal constabulary, public works, immigration, health people, Abaco's two MPs, local and central governments elected and officials were all looking on and now the minister presents himself as playing dumb to all of what it took to do what was done illegally to and on the many acres lands across the Abaco's,**....please stop F##king around with the minds the PopoulacesCommeners', yes?


tribanon 8 months, 2 weeks ago

So just what are you saying? If you're trying to say what I think you're saying, then I would respectfully suggest you consider applying for a job at the UN.


truetruebahamian 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Also talrussell, please learn to express your opinions in proper English so that they might be read and understood rather than summarily dismissed as the incoherent ramblings of an unsound mind.


GodSpeed 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Tear down the slums and send the inhabitants back to Haiti, it's common sense. If the UN doesn't like it then they can take them and send them to New York or Europe.


sage 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Perhaps the folks at Rights Bahamas should really take a look at the Building Code of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and then suggest to the Government what should its position be towards those who are in clear violation of said Code.

Rights must always travel in the same care with RESPONSIBILITY. Perhaps the organization should invest MORE of its time teaching those who build these shantytowns what their responsibility is to this country...then if the Government violates its code... I will be happy to side with any group that holds their feet to the fire.


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