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Demolitions ‘With Decency’ - But Bannister Says It’S Not Up To Him To Take Care Of Displaced Residents

DEMOLITION work at The Farm in Abaco last weekend.

DEMOLITION work at The Farm in Abaco last weekend.

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DEPUTY Prime Minister and Minister of Works Desmond Bannister.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Senior Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

WORKS Minister Desmond Bannister has stressed the demolition of homes in the Farm shanty town in Abaco will be done with decency but said it is not his responsibility to take care of residents displaced by the destruction of their houses.

“That might sound harsh,” he told reporters before a Cabinet meeting yesterday, “but when they went out there and built in direct contravention of the law, they knew or ought to have known that they were breaching the law of The Bahamas.

“They’ve gotten notices now for more than 28 days and they’ve done nothing. It’s very important for them to use their resources, whatever resources they had to build the house in the first place, they could’ve applied in accordance with the law and be able to lawfully construct something just as any of y’all would do.”

Mr Bannister confirmed that on Friday the government began the third phase of its plan to demolish shanty houses that were built since a Supreme Court ruling in December 2018 ordered the government not to demolish the shanty structures that existed at that time. That ruling also ordered residents not to build any new shanty houses.

Mr Bannister said the structures currently targeted for destruction “are being constructed directly contrary to a Supreme Court order that said you are not to construct any shanty houses or you’re not to enlarge them or anything like that.”

The Tribune on Sunday spoke to a man who said dealing with the destruction of his house has been a nightmare. He said he has been separated from his girlfriend and her two-year-old daughter while they figure out their next move.

The Bahamian man said he built his house in The Farm after Hurricane Dorian destroyed his home in Marsh Harbour. He said he knew what he was doing was against the law but hoped to make it work until he could get back on his feet.

Mr Bannister said the Ministry of Works has gone out of its way to let residents secure their belongings even after they ignored notices to leave the premises.

“… We are doing it with decency, notwithstanding the illegality that these houses were built with,” he said.

“Despite the fact that we have already given notices of all the houses, we have fixed notices on houses again and those notices indicate that after three days the ministry would demolish those houses. So we give them three days grace – the notices are in English and in Creole – asking people to remove their belongings. They have three days grace and we’re going to come and demolish them. That’s on top of the notice that they’ve gotten.

“You could imagine that demolishing houses that are occupied is a challenge, it takes longer than normal, and so on (Friday) our teams went in. They met a number of houses that still had persons’ possessions in (them). In virtually every case, notwithstanding the fact that they had been given notice, if the owner was around, they spoke with them, told them what they were going to do, asked them to remove their belongings. Where they did not remove their belongings, they took photographs of the belongings, they then inventoried them, they then removed them except in cases where the owner said they didn’t want them anymore. Then those houses were demolished.

“On (Friday) we demolished six buildings. That was a full day’s work. (We) came back the next day, which was Saturday, and demolished an additional four. We’re proceeding in a methodical manner to demolish all of these illegally constructed houses. They were all constructed in direct breach of the law, in direct breach of a Supreme Court order.

“There are a number of shanty town houses in New Providence. . . Last week I got a complaint from one Bahamian. Every week I get a complaint from Bahamians. Last week I got a complaint from a Bahamian man who had gone to the bank, borrowed money, purchased two lots. During the pandemic he could not do anything on his property, went back after the pandemic and found 19 shanty houses on his lots when he’s trying to get additional money to build his home. That is what we are facing. It’s a very serious, serious issue. We take it seriously and we’re going to carry out our mandate in accordance with the law.”

Mr Bannister said almost 200 houses are targeted for demolition.

“If you saw any of the videos,” he said, “you would notice that none of them could stand up to hurricane force winds. They are all built in breach of the code. None of them have permits and if you have a strong wind, they’ll all be gone and we’d be spending your money to rescue people in the midst of a hurricane if there is another hurricane in Abaco. In addition to that, there are no sanitation facilities. These are diseases waiting to happen and waiting to spread in Abaco and in New Providence.”

Comments

UN 4 months ago

‘Having’ my ‘say’: Dorian made ppl homeless and led to many having to come here to live in a stadium, and Trump KINDLY allowed many to stay in the U.S (where WE overstayed/BROKE LAW aka reason for all a dis? = EGO), etc.

Where were they expecting these ppl to go back to? Using a disaster (hurricane season a yearly event) to get them to ‘go back to Haiti’? Why not build temporary housing for these ppl who have a legal right to be here? HEARTLESS.

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Bobsyeruncle 4 months ago

The problem is, most of them don't have a legal right to be here. And, those that do have a legal right, knew they didn't own the land they were building on and were fully aware of the consequences of doing so. My guess is that they never thought the government would do anything about it, since previous governments had failed to enforce the law. If you still think they are being heartless, why not offer up your backyard as a place to build temporary housing

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jamesg30 4 months ago

So treat them like animals. Nice. Bobsy. Hope you never need some compassion in your life you "live by the rules" champion.

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tribanon 4 months ago

It's actually the other way around you twit. For decades now they've been waving their own flag and laughing at us Bahamians as they've gone about overwhelming our nation to the point where we Bahamians are now on the verge of being treated by them as animals in our very own country.

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Bobsyeruncle 4 months ago

Sorry Jam-jam, what's your solution then?
Letting them build and stay is setting a very dangerous precedent, as word will get around that The Bahamas is an easy place to get free land. I don't agree with treating them like animals, but they are breaking the law - period ! Other people end up behind bars for breaking the law, why should these illegal squatters be treated nay differently ?

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John 4 months ago

We have so intricately adopted the policies of America which was actually policies against Black people. Our brothers. Some who fought bravely to free us from slavery. And their fight against poverty and economic discrimination and exclusion continues. Not saying it is right for people to come here and construct illegal shantytowns. But why wait until homes are fully constructed to destroy them? And some of the homes are owned, or at least, occupied by Bahamians. Simply because there are no alternative housing, especially in Abaco.

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TalRussell 4 months ago

Unlike the ugly Desmond, the Haitian Bahamians are beautiful, charismatic people who await a charismatic individual to connect them, stepping out from out their shells to begin to play their as entitled equal role** in the all that the realm of 1200 out islands, cays, and rocks, does offer, yes?

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bahamianson 4 months ago

Treat them with respect, but if you break the law, go to jail, is it the responsibility of the jail to find you a job?

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bogart 4 months ago

The previous story with the same above photo of the situation clearly mentions a Haitian man whose dilemna should have addressed to the Haitian Ambasasador. Frequent stories reported in the press should have been alerted the Haitian Embassy on Shirley St. of the distress of their Haitian nationals.

All Haitian Citizens should have referred to their Haitian Ambassador of their dilemna from a year ago and continuously. Where is the Haitian Ambassador and immediate dealing with their nationals distress in the Bahamas ??? Frankly, otherwise of Haitian nationals with known knowledge of Haitian Embassy non co-operation and quiet acceptance of citizens illegally taking over possessing Bahamian State lands, warrents the Bahamas National Security immediately taking action against perpetrators.

The Haitian Ambassador needs to be summons to the Bahamian Govt to explain these actions of their nationals actions going on over the past.

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TalRussell 4 months ago

@ComradeBogart, the immigration officials, need to be summoned to present any such evidence in their possession - confirming that the communities residents is here, illegally, yes?

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TalRussell 4 months ago

My Comrades,The Brits' have long been waving their Union Jack flags - served the traditional afternoon tea imported from Indian - poured from the silver teapots collection up at the Government House. It's a tradition of afternoon tea served with trays of dainty sandwiches which has been an annually celebrated as Union Jack Flags Day by the realm's Brit residence ever since when Comrade the Duke of Windsor,** was in residence up atop Mount Fitzwilliam, yes?

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