Lincoln Bain (centre) during Friday's event in the Carmichael Road area.
By PAVEL BAILEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
FARMERS occupying Crown land in the Carmichael Road area raised issues with Friday’s police ride-along in their community and what they claim is wilful government neglect of deforestation there.
Shortly after members of the press, along with the Minister of National Security Wayne Munroe, disembarked from the ride-along in the National Pine Forest near Bacardi Road, a brief argument broke out between a member of concerned farmers and the authorities.
Coalition of Independents leader Lincoln Bain claimed that he was assaulted by a member of the RBDF as he tried to approach the staging area.
After stating his intention to seek legal action against the Defence Force officer, Mr Bain speaking on behalf of other farmers occupying Crown land in the so-called Lincoln Bain area, stating that they had not been properly consulted before Friday’s operation took place.
“We should have been invited. We were told by Superintendent Strachan that we would be invited to be a part of this. Y’all lied to us. You all tried to silence us yesterday because y’all don’t want the full story of what’s going on in the back here,” Mr Bain said.
Mr Bain also criticised the government for its delayed intervention concerning the deforestation in the Carmichael Road area, claiming it was because several politicians are part of a larger conspiracy surrounding the issue.
“There are politicians involved. Politicians are involved. That’s why it took three weeks since we reported to come in the back here. Now they can show up? There is corruption involved in the back here,” he alleged.
Mr Bain went on to attribute the deforestation and shanty towns in the area to illegal immigrants. He also claimed that their makeshift homes, along with the dump in the area, were intentionally bypassed in the ride-along route.
Despite these claims, during the tour the press encountered a Bahamian woman and her children living in a bus turned makeshift home in the area. The Minister of State said government would try to offer her assistance.
Speaking directly to the press, Mr Bain condemned the government for not cracking down on shanty towns in Abaco with the same force he accused them of using on Friday. Mr Bain also said many of the farmers only wish to protect the land from deforestation.
“All of the people behind me are farmers who are peacefully occupying this land. Many have been here for many, many years and all they want is to possess this land. Since we came back here, no illegal immigrants were allowed to take down our trees or remove our trees,” Mr Bain said.
“They didn’t take ya’ll to the area where they say is the Lincoln Bain area because all the trees still there. They didn’t want to show ya’ll that, all right? They trying to sell this narrative that Bahamians were clearing down the trees and they were taking the trees from the Bahamians - that is not the truth.”
In a brief meeting between Mr Bain and the Minister of National Security, Munroe said anywhere that people are illegally occupying public property, the government will clear them.
When asked by Mr Bain exactly what he was going to do about shanty towns, Minister Monroe had this to say.
“That may be an immigration issue. If shanty towns are on private land, if they are breaching forestry laws, any laws for clearing, any laws for excavating we will deal with that, if there are illegals there we will deal with that, if there are illegal firearms we will deal with that. Our objective is to enforce the law, and you see other law enforcement agencies and so that’s our remit, that’s our job and that’s what we are going to do,” Minister Munroe said.
“This property is the property of the Bahamian government, the Bahamian people, not some of them, all of them. And so, governments are elected to decide how public lands are used. If you don’t like how we do it, then every five years you do a verdict on it, but in the meantime, we will insist that people obey the law.”