Authorities closely monitoring new construction, affixed notices
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said the new construction of unregulated structures continues in the Farm Road shantytown in Abaco.
Bannister said government agencies continue to closely monitor the challenging situation, and have affixed legal notices on every dwelling in the area.
Asked how many occupants reside in the Farm Road area, the minister said he did not have the figure available at the time.
As of last November, an estimated 75 families remained.
Bannister said the government planned to clear four shantytown communities in Abaco following Hurricane Dorian, which wiped out two of the largest unregulated communities, along with portions of the island last September.
Three communities were cleared, including The Mudd in Marsh Harbour, The Peas and Sandbanks.
According to the minister, Farm Road could not be cleared because those of those occupants and the court order with respect to how the government ought to proceed.
“I believe the Attorney General’s Office and the relevant authorities are seeking to get the appropriate authorization so we can clear the Farm,” Bannister said in the foyer of the House of Assembly.
“In the interim I know there have been some new attempts at construction there.
“In every one of those places where people have started new construction, the ministries offices in Abaco have gone there and affixed the statutory notices.
“Before we demolish anything, the law requires us to affix notices to the residents.
“So, we have affixed those notices and our officers in Abaco are monitoring everything that happens there.
“We have to follow a certain procedure to do what we have to do.
“If we don’t follow those procedures, we’ll end up in court again.”
He said the government will follow the directions the court provides and clear the area in a lawful manner.
Following the storm, the government issued a cease order with immediate effect for the four shantytown communities it planned to clear to prevent anyone from building or developing in these areas.
Bannister said as a people, a question must be asked: who is hiring undocumented people.
He said hundreds of people have been hired across numerous islands such as Andros and Eleuthera, which directly contributes to the problem.
“We’ve allowed this thing to happen in this country for 50 years,” Bannister said.
“And so, you have these settlements — every island I go to I see these residencies — and our people… have been complicit in it because we hire people through this country.
“All over you have to ask yourself, where are these illegal residents working? What jobs are they going to? Who is hiring them? How do they have money to do these things?
“And when you ask yourself these questions, you ask yourself, are we working against ourselves as Bahamians and whether we really want to tackle the problems that face the country; and whether we continue to place the blame and responsibility on government agencies as opposed to ensuring we live up to our obligation as Bahamian citizens.
“And I think it is an appropriate time to ask that question coming up into Independence this week. Who is hiring hundreds and hundreds of people in Eleuthera, Exuma, Andros, all these communities, people who are undocumented.”