(Inset) The notice of an upcoming hearing connected to the summons last week.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune News Editor
THE government is seeking to demolish 555 shanty town structures in New Providence and Abaco –– with the Office of the Attorney General asking the Supreme Court to approve the order.
This includes 232 unfinished structures and completed buildings on the north and south sides of the SC Bootle Highway, Abaco; 120 structures on The Farm near Treasure Cay, Abaco; 98 structures on All Saints Way, New Providence; 45 structures on Montgomery Road, north side of Cowpen Road, and 60 structures off Carmichael Road and Gladstone Roads, according to an Amended Summons filed in the Supreme Court on February 24.
Defence force officers served shanty town residents in SC Bootle Highway with notices of an upcoming hearing connected to the summons last week.
The notices, which officers posted on structures along with copies of the Amended Summons, said: “TAKE NOTICE that you required (sic) to attend court before Chief Justice Sir Ian Winder on Monday the 3rd April, 2023, at 10:00am for the hearing of the Respondents’ application for breach of the Orders of the Court dated December 17th, 2018, and June 9th, 2021.”
It is unclear why the Unregulated Communities Action Taskforce referred to the notices in a press statement last week as “eviction notices” given that they are, in fact, notices about next week’s hearing, not eviction.
According to the Amended Summons, the AG’s Office is seeking orders that the structures breached orders Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson made while considering the legality of the Minnis administration’s shanty town eradication policies.
On December 17th, 2018, Justice Grant Thompson ordered that residents refrain from constructing, erecting, or altering any building or structure except in accordance with the Buildings Regulation Act pending her substantive ruling. On June 9th, 2021, she likewise ordered residents to cease and desist from constructing or repairing any homes in the areas under an injunction; that injunction restrained the government from demolishing shanty town buildings in the country pending her ruling.
The AG’s Office filed a summons seeking an order to demolish structures allegedly built in breach of Justice Grant Thompson’s orders on February 3rd. Justice Grant Thompson ruled that the Minnis administration’s shanty town policies were legal and constitutional on February 10th. The AG’s Office then filed an Amended Summons outlining how many structures it wants to demolish on February 24th.
News of the pending court action comes after Respect Our Homes Limited and 177 residents/occupants of shanty towns in The Bahamas appealed Justice Grant-Thompson’s ruling.
The appellants oppose the government’s decision to take “apparent” possession of the shanty town land, to disconnect utilities in those areas, and to issue general, blanket notices under the Buildings Regulation Act to demolish shanty town buildings. Their appeal, filed on March 10, relies on six grounds, and seeks a declaration from the Court of Appeal that Justice Grant Thompson’s ruling is void.