Lawyers seeking to expand shantytown injunction to cover entire country
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Attorneys representing Timothy Rolle and other New Providence and Abaco shantytown residents have filed an affidavit seeking to vary the injunction “to extend to all Haitian ethnic organic rural communities throughout The Bahamas”.
Rolle, a Mudd resident, claims the government destroyed his home, business and vehicles in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in an affidavit filed on January 24.
The writ opposes the government’s motion to lift the injunction blocking the demolition of shantytowns structures, and furthered his statement will also be used in support of a motion to find the government in contempt of court for allegedly breaching the injunction.
Rolle, 39, who identifies himself as a fisherman and carpenter, noted that he is duly authorized to swear the affidavit on behalf of the other 176 shantytown residents in the matter.
He said he lived in The Mudd for over 30 years in a “properly constructed wooden and concrete structure that was fenced in”, which had proper plumbing and electricity supplied by generator and solar panels.
Additionally, Rolle said he built a convenience store and restaurant on the property which catered to the entire Mudd community.
He valued the buildings and the items inside at $100,000.
“My home was one of [the] better built homes in the entire community,” the affidavit read.
“In fact, during the last election the FNM party found my home suitable to use as their election headquarters to meet and garner support and votes in the Mudd & Pigeon Pea community.”
Rolle, who said he stayed in his home during the passage of Hurricane Dorian until the water levels got too high, noted that only his roof sustained heavy damage which could have been repaired within a week.
He said he and his family were evacuated to New Providence and stayed at The Calvary Baptist Church, where they were “treated less than human” and never informed when they could leave the shelter and return to Abaco.
Upon leaving his family to secure his home and other valuables, Rolle said he found the community fenced off and guarded by defense force officers who told him the area was off limits and he could not retrieve any items from his home.
“I witnessed a tractor demolish my home in front of me as I stood by feeling helpless and hopeless,” the affidavit read.
“…My Ford Explorer Jeep valued at approximately $4,500, my Ford Mustang valued at approximately $7,500 and my Ford Ranger Truck valued at approximately $4,700 dollars were removed from my property and put on the outskirts of the community where persons eventually stripped my vehicles for parts.”
The affidavit further outlined similar stories of other Mudd and Pigeon Pea shanty town residents whose homes were bulldozed by the government.
It also points to several shanty town residents currently living in The Farm, who have expressed fear over the government’s intention to destroy their homes “without cause”.
In the aftermath deadly Category 5 storm, the government implemented a six-month ban on any new construction in shantytowns on Abaco.
Several contractors were commissioned to clear down the debris from the shantytowns and inspect for corpses.
“I do not believe the government had any legal right to demolish my home or the homes of others in The Mudd and Pigeon Peas, and I do not believe they would be acting lawfully were they to do the same to homes in Farm Road and The Farm,” the affidavit read.
“I pray for the said injunction to be varied to apply to all homes in all Haitian ethnic organic rural communities which are referred to as shanty towns by the respondents.
“In so far as Abaco is concerned, the respondents are clearly on a path of arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional destruction.
“If the respondents are not prevented from continuing the destruction and demolition of the homes of the persons occupying such communities, they will, like me suffer irreparable harm and damage.
“In so far as this variation is also made for other Family Islands, I believe from all the evidence in this affidavit and the others filed in this action, that all such communities are at risk as they may suffer storm damage and or at any time without warning, legal notices or action, the respondents may simply start destroying them.
“The respondents have shown their true colors.”
It continued: “Anti-Haitian sentiment has been so whipped up and inflamed by the politicians that all of these communities, like those in New Providence, need the court’s protection.
“Not only will they have lost their homes and possessions, they will now be homeless and worsen the housing and relief crisis that exists in the Abacos and elsewhere as a result of hurricane Dorian.
“What the government is doing, in destroying people’s homes that remain and which can be repaired is senseless.”
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.
Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson granted an injunction barring the government from moving forward with its shanty town eradication plans.
The Office of the Attorney General filed documents on January 14 to vary the injunction, including a second sworn affidavit by Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes – who served as chairman of the Shantytown Action Task Force.
Foulkes argued for applicants on Abaco to be excluded from the injunction, given that Hurricane Dorian destroyed “nearly 100 percent” of shantytowns on the island.
In an interview with Eyewitness News Online yesterday, Attorney Fred Smith, QC, called the government’s actions an “absolute perversion of human life.”
“As you can see from Mr. Rolle’s affidavit, the government continues to fail to appreciate that behind the political hyperbole and demagoguery we are dealing with the lives of real human beings and people who have lived in these organic communities for decades and decades,” Smith said.
“…This issue is not just about trying to get rid of the Haitian culture or eradicate the Haitians out of these communities this is about respecting the homes of human beings – Bahamans, Haitians, permanent residents, people born in The Bahamas.”