Minnis says shantytowns are “unsafe, unhealthy, and a health risk”
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis has instructed Attorney General Carl Bethel to make an application to the court to have an injunction lifted that would allow the government to demolish shantytowns in Abaco.
He made the announcement while wrapping up debate on the Disaster Preparedness and Response (Amendment) Bill, 2019, in the House of Assembly.
“It is essential that we have all within our boundaries live in proper, safe accommodations,” Minnis advised Parliament.
“That is the government’s responsibility to ensure the safety of its people and all within its domain. And therefore, it is mandatory that we remove all shantytowns within our territory.”
Minnis continued: “They break our laws. They are unsafe. They are unhealthy. They are a health risk and they are unhygienic. And therefore, I will ask the attorney general to return to court to ask that the injunction be lifted. It is essential that we save lives.”
Last year, a Supreme Court injunction barred the government from moving forward with plans to evict residents from shantytowns in New Providence.
The injunction handed down by Justice Cheryl Grand-Thompson also blocked the government from demolishing shantytown structures.
The judicial review of the issue is pending.
A hearing was expected last month, but was rescheduled.
The government gave shantytown residents of New Providence until August 10, 2018, to evacuate, and residents of shantytowns in Abaco, until July 31, 2019 to leave.
Human rights activist and attorney Fred Smith, QC, has opposed the government’s plans, calling them “reprehensible, illegal and an abuse”.
Shantytown communities were decimated by Hurricane Dorian on September 1-3.
Many of the residents from those areas were displaced, and have since evacuated to shelters in New Providence.
However, others have remained in Abaco in hopes of reestablishing themselves.
The areas were largely populated with Bahamians of Haitian descent and Haitians.
The government recently announced a six-month ban on any new construction in shantytowns.
Smith argued the building prohibition order’s exclusive focus on shantytowns was another example of the “rank discrimination pervading government’s thinking”.
He said: “The Bahamas continues to be a savage nation that victimizes and abuses the human and constitutional rights of persons of Haitian ethnic origin and in the pursuit of this obsession, the rights of all other persons in The Bahamas are being sacrificed.”
The prime minister also recently announced that government plan to acquire the land.
Minnis visited The Mudd in Marsh Harbour, Abaco over the weekend.
The perimeter of the debris-littered area was being fenced by government workers.
Several Mudd residents canvassed by Eyewitness News Online have said they do not plan to rebuild in the low-lying area; however, they don’t know the way forward after losing everything.
Abaco has six shantytowns, including The Mudd and Pigeon Peas.
Earlier this month, the prime minister also visited Sand Banks, a shantytown in Treasure Cay, Abaco.