By LEANDRA ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE OFFICE of the Prime Minister has vigorously defended the demolition of domes on Abaco in the wake of criticisms over the move, stressing the operation was necessary due to serious mismanagement of the housing structures and the “squalid” and unsafe state of the dome site.
The Davis administration came under heavy fire last week after it began demolishing the domes in Spring City, Abaco. Some Abaco residents took to social media to express outrage over the exercise, labelling it as heartless while others described it as a waste of taxpayers’ money.
In a statement released on Friday, OPM suggested that critics who opposed the demolition lacked full knowledge on the domes, including their initial purpose, which the office reiterated were meant for temporary use.
According to OPM, the government had initially planned to dismantle the domes and salvage the materials but decided against this for several reasons.
Chief among them was the “squalid state” of the housing site and the domes’ mouldy conditions which they said posed a health hazard.
“We understand that the initial plan was that the domes were only to be used as sleeping quarters. Another site was to be built for communal use of kitchen, showers and toilet facilities that would be shared by everyone. That never happened,” OPM said.
“So, through various methods, individuals installed small toilets and other water-based facilities. Because domes are not manufactured to be used that way, a lot of moisture developed, causing the growth of a lot of dangerous mould. Residents rightly complained loudly in the press and elsewhere about the mould.”
Additionally, OPM said some of the dome structures were being used as brothels, bars and for other illegal activities.
Further to this, it said some of the people living in the temporary homes were not the original recipients and instead were renting them.
“Apart from the physical squalor, the site was being misused and abused in several ways by a number of residents,” the statement continued.
“There were cases where people were paying rent to the original recipients which was certainly unethical, if not illegal. One dome was being used as a sex brothel, by a group of foreign nationals engaged in prostitution. One was being used as an illegal bar.”
OPM added: “Occupants complained that a lot of theft was taking place, with people going into domes and stealing personal items. Many occupants reported not feeling safe.
“There was lots of garbage and waste strewn around. Derelict cars litter the site. Because the domes were never designed to have toilets, the sewer system never functioned properly. When it rained, the hole where the waste lay would overflow with faecal matter.”
Added to these issues were concerns about residents remaining in the domes during the peak of hurricane season.
However, the Free National Movement said because the hurricane season is underway, the exercises couldn’t have come at a worse time.
The FNM also claimed that the government was inflicting even more economic hardship to already struggling Bahamians.
Similar comments were echoed by former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis on Friday, who called the act “inhumane.”
He acknowledged that while the domes — which were erected under his administration — were only meant for temporary use, it was still heartless for the government to destroy them considering that some people were still living in them.
Dr Minnis also noted that the domes could have been dismantled and placed in storage for future use.
“Now, I hear them say ‘oh they had mould’ and different things but how many government buildings around here have mould? Do we break them down or do we clean them up?” Dr Minnis asked.
Still, OPM shot back at these claims Friday, calling the party hypocritical while accusing them of “abandoning” Abaconians when they needed help the most following Dorian’s passage.
OPM also insisted the dome residents have been treated humanely and with dignity throughout the entire process, explaining that most of them had received monetary assistance and other forms of help from the government to assist with their relocation.
As it relates to those dome tenants opposing the demolition exercises, OPM said these individuals made it clear from day one that they were not going to cooperate.
“They remain very vocal and continue to make demands for large amounts of money, etc, before they move,” the statement continued.
To assist with rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Dorian, the Minnis administration spent more than $6m on nearly 200 domes that were supposed to be used as temporary housing for Abaco and Grand Bahama residents.
However, not all of those domes were erected.
When asked about this on Friday, Dr Minnis said: “One has to look and see what the original intent was and one has to look and see how many who had applied using the procedure and intent that was purchased for and adhered to it and/or had gotten such facilities. It’s interesting for government to provide such information and you would see that the domes was a successful event.”