NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A court hearing seeking to stop the eviction of 177 shantytown residents will advance a step further on Friday.
Attorneys are expected to convene for a mention hearing that is expected to determine the way forward for numerous interlocutory matters, Eyewitness News Online was told.
A hearing was expected last week, but was rescheduled.
The government is also expected to make application at the upcoming hearing to lift the court injunction preventing the demolition of the shantytowns in Abaco.
In late October, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said he had instructed Attorney General Carl Bethel to make an application to the court to have the injunction lifted that would allow the government to demolish shantytowns in Abaco.
“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.”
Shantytown communities were decimated by Hurricane Dorian on September 1-3.
Many of the residents from those areas were displaced, and have been evacuated to shelters in New Providence.
However, others have remain in Abaco in hopes of reestablishing themselves.
The areas were largely populated with Bahamians of Haitian descent and Haitians.
Attorney Fred Smith represents the 177 shantytown residents.
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 Grant-Thompson also blocked the government from demolishing shantytown structures.
The judicial review of the issue is pending.
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.
Smith has opposed the government’s plans, calling them “reprehensible, illegal and an abuse”.
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; Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes, chair of the Shantytown Aaction Task Force; Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister; Attorney General Carl Bethel; Bahamas Power and Light; and the Water and Sewerage Corporation.
The government recently announced a six-month ban on any new construction in shantytowns.