Govt. seeking to have Abaco removed from shantytown injunction

Govt. seeking to have Abaco removed from shantytown injunction
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The government has argued in an affidavit that Abaco shanty town residents should be excluded from the court injunction blocking the eradication of shantytowns on that island.

Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, who served as chairman of the Shantytown Action Task Force, said there was nearly 100 percent damage to those communities due to Hurricane Dorian.

He points to a September 2018 Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) Damage Sector Assessment in his affidavit filed on January 14.

The CDEMA report noted there was nearly 100 percent damage to houses in areas such as “the Mudd, Pigeon Peas, Sand Banks, The Farm Road, Leisure Lee Community”.

With 18 to 23 feet storm surges and 220 mph gusts, Dorian pounded the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama between September 1-3, claiming the lives of a confirmed 70 people — and displacing thousands.

It is still uncertain how many remain missing.

Foulkes’ affidavit read: “In other words Hurricane Dorian by force majeure destroyed nearly 100 percent of the structures in the shanty town communities in Abaco.

“Consequently, the very substratum for the grant of the injunction in respect to Abaco has disappeared.”

“In these premises, we humbly ask that the injunction granted 4th August, 2018, be varied to be excluded from applying to the applicants from Abaco.”

The government gave shantytown residents of New Providence until August 10, 2018, to evacuate those communities, and residents of shantytowns in Abaco, until July 31, 2019 to leave.

However, days before the deadline lawyers representing 177 of those shantytown residents filed an application for leave to apply for judicial review on the government’s eradication program.

The applicants are Respect Our Homes Ltd, and Lumane Nonord et al being 117 residents and or occupants of the shantytown in The Bahamas.

The respondents in the matter include Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, who has responsibility for lands; chair of the Shantytown Action Task Force; Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister; Attorney General Carl Bethel; Bahamas Power and Light; and the Water and Sewerage Corporation.

On August 4, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson granted an injunction barring the government from moving forward with its plans to evict residents from shantytowns in New Providence  blocked demolition of the structures.

In the days after the storm, the Ministry of Housing and the Environment issued a Prohibition to Build Order for The Mudd, The Peas, Sandbanks and Farm Road communities with immediate effect, “to allow for recovery efforts and the removal of storm debris related to Hurricane Dorian”.

The order is valid for six months but may be extended for further periods of up to six months as required.

The government has commissioned several contractors to clear down the debris from the shantytowns.

Meanwhile, attorneys representing Mudd resident Timothy Rolle and 176 other New Providence and Abaco shantytown residents are seeking to vary the injunction “to extend to all Haitian ethnic organic rural communities throughout The Bahamas”.

In an affidavit filed on on January 24, Rolle claimed that the government destroyed his home, business and vehicles in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.