'Shanty towns will not go unchecked forever’

WORKS and Utilities Minister Alfred Sears. (File photo)

WORKS and Utilities Minister Alfred Sears. (File photo)


Tribune Chief Reporter


PUBLIC Works Minister Alfred Sears warned that illegal shanty towns will not be allowed to go unchecked indefinitely, while revealing that officials are reviewing an existing injunction with a view to making appropriate applications to the Supreme Court to crack down on the unregulated communities.

However, the minister would not say whether the government would be seeking leave from the court to demolish newer structures.

The review of the existing injunction was being done simultaneously as officials were in the midst of a survey of shanty towns to determine who lives in the structures.


NATIONAL Security Minister Wayne Munroe. Photo: Austin Fernander

Meanwhile, National Security Minister Wayne Munroe said “people who break the law to build houses in this fashion begin to display themselves as lawless and lawlessness is something that can be problematic”.

 The ministers spoke to the shanty town issues yesterday in Abaco where officials visited The Farm - an irregular community that has mushroomed in size over the last few years.

 The visit also follows the Spanish Wells Commonage Committee’s implementation of a one-year building ban due to the expansion of shanty towns on generational farmland last month.

 According to a letter recently posted to Facebook by Ivanhoe Sweeting, chairman of the Spanish Wells Commonage Committee, the ban went into effect on October 25.

 “First of all I commend the Commonage Committee because it is their land,” Mr Sears said. “The government has also issued a prohibition. Currently there is an injunction in the Supreme Court. We are reviewing that injunction and part of the response will also involve making appropriate applications to the Supreme Court to proceed with the multi-dimensional response that we’re advising.

 “There is an extant injunction I am advised and that injunction is being reviewed with the guidance of the attorney general and as we finalise a multi-dimensional response we will also ensure that we respect a separate branch of the government, we will make the appropriate applications to the Supreme Court.”

 Asked if part of the application would be permission to demolish illegal structures, Mr Sears replied: “First of all there is an existing injunction and an application can be made for variation, an application can be made for the removal of the injunction. So, I cannot tell you precisely, but certainly we will respect the Supreme Court and make the appropriate application to facilitate the implementation of the multi-dimensional response.”

 The injunction to which Mr Sears was referring was granted by Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson in 2018. It banned demolition in New Providence and parts of Abaco.

 However, it has been more than one year since the justice adjourned a judicial review into whether demolition of the unregulated communities is unconstitutional.

 In earlier remarks yesterday, Mr Sears said a team under the purview of the Building Control Unit in his ministry was still working to determine demographics in shanty towns.

 “Currently, what is happening now is we’re doing a survey of all of these irregular communities in terms of the number of structures, who are in these structures. We have Bahamians, we have persons who are undocumented and as I would have indicated when we were in Eleuthera with Blackwood, we have persons on land owned by the commonage in the case of Blackwood and working for the commoners in Spanish Wells.

 “We are pleased that we have the cooperation of the Commonage Committee, Mr Ivanhoe Sweeting accompanied us and we will be incorporating these private partners as we design a comprehensive, multi-dimensional response.

 “You have young people who by law must be in school and our public schools by law must accept them so it involves a number of factors and we have situations where persons who are Bahamian and Bahamian enterprises, which employ persons in these communities these communities represent a danger to the residents because we are dealing with more frequent and more violent hurricanes.

 “So it is a public health issue. It’s a public security issue.”

 For his part, Mr Munroe pointed to issues with crime in the Turks and Caicos Islands, adding that if allowed to continue, The Bahamas could face the same issues as the British territory.

 “In the deployment to Turks and Caicos they’re having great problems in these communities and so our officers are reporting back to us the potential for these communities,” he said.

 “Bahamian people would have a legitimate expectation that everyone will be treated equally and it’s the government’s job to see that that expectation is respected.”

 Asked if this meant that more law enforcement would be deployed to these areas, Mr Munroe said: “The matter is actively being considered with regard to how do we address people who have illegally built, who might have illegally occupied government property because if we tell one set of people that they can’t do it, then we definitely can’t let another set of persons do it.

 “So, that is actively being considered across Abaco, Grand Bahama, Andros, Eleuthera and New Providence,” he said.


Sickened 6 months, 3 weeks ago

People need to get fired for letting shanty towns build up unchecked and for so long. The one in abaco is 250 acres now? How the F#$% does this happen? Please post any details of when any of you may have officially reported any illegal houses being constructed so that we can take these ministries and leaders to court for not doing their jobs. Leaving these shanty towns unchecked is criminal because whoever is in charge of oversight for the Bahamian public is facilitating in the known theft of electricity, the known contamination of our water table and land and the building of homes without necessary approvals in place. If these people get injured in the collapse of their poorly constructed homes they have every right to sue the government because the ministry knew about the construction and did nothing to inspect the building. Imagine building a high-rise in Miami. If no-one comes out to stop or inspect you then whoever is in charge of inspection and policing will be going to jail. You simply can't watch a building go up and not be held responsible.


bahamianson 6 months, 3 weeks ago

The retailers wish you had the same attitude about putting caps on foodstorw prices. The last time Halkitis said government will not tolerant law breakers, but they can let squatters do as they wish.The hammer comes down in one area but not the next. It is a total mixed message to civilians. You can break the law here but not there.


tribanon 6 months, 3 weeks ago

True to form, Sears remains all talk and no do!


SP 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Meanwhile, the damn Haitians are allowed BY LAW to build anything, anywhere, without purchasing any property or obtaining any permits, while Bahamians are forced to deal with a tedious long list of bullshyt from town planning, jump backward and forwards through multiple hoops, suffer delay upon delay, upon delay, pay extortion fees, and kiss all kinda ass to just build a privacy wall on our own property!

I support Mr. Lincoln Bain 1010%!


SP 6 months, 3 weeks ago

STFU Alfred. Haitians run things!


SP 6 months, 3 weeks ago

PS.... I hope and pray Sarkis nails all crooked politicians FIRMLY to the wall!!


JokeyJack 6 months, 3 weeks ago

No, not forever - just only until it's too late.


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