As the July 31 deadline fast approaches for shanty town residents to find proper dwelling or face eviction, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis addressed the Haitian community last night at the 24th Annual International Crusade of the League of Haitian Pastors.
There was standing room only at the Church of God Auditorium on Joe Farrington Road, as hundred gathered to hear government’s plan on the way forward.
The league is made up of 40 churches and according to officials, consists of 10,000 members.
The prime minister’s remarks were translated by Minister of Transport and Local Government Frankie Campbell, who is of Haitian decent.
Dr. Minnis told attendees that following talks with the Haitian president, he has learned that the impoverished island is developing, and with much need infrastructure being put in place. Advancement, he said, were also being made in agriculture.
As it relates to the eviction notice, Dr. Minnis noted that there may be a misunderstanding of the government’s intention.
“We have been careful to address this issue in a compassionate manner. Our aim is to improve the quality of life for all those affected by what we are doing,” he said.
“We must live in The Bahamas as one people, with shared values and a shared commitment of a better future for all citizens and residents in The Bahamas.”
Dr. Minnis said as his government seeks to build a better Bahamas, both sides must “join hands and hearts in the spirit of solidarity.” However, he cautioned attendees that The Bahamas must also remain a country of law and order.
Meanwhile labour representative Morgan Brown brought remarks on behalf of Labour Minister Senator Dion Foulkes.
The government, Brown said, recently conducted a survey of shanty town communities, led by Foulkes. That survey revealed that contrary to popular belief, the majority of residents had some form of legal status to reside in The Bahamas.
Brown said that the government hopes to make the July 31 eviction process a smooth one.
“While I realize that leaving ones’ home is never an easy process … Over the years the Bahamian Haitian community has positively impacted the growth of The Bahamas,” Brown said.
“We have had our share of challenges … we look forward to working with pastors to build a better relationship with this community.”