Riots loom in shanty town teardown

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Fred Smith, QC.

Activist warns govt. of backlash to destruction of shanty towns

Attorney Fred Smith, QC, urged the Minnis administration Thursday to “be careful and humane”, or face the possibility of a riot over the government’s plans to “eradicate” shanty towns.

In an interview with Eyewitness News, Smith said, if the government continues to “put these people’s backs against a wall” they will eventually push back.

“People will react. I am not advocating violence but if you keep behaving in a brutish, inhumane and violent way towards people – if you take a bulldozer and knock a person’s home down – they are going to react,” he said.

“And so, I beg my government not to promote civil unrest in The Bahamas. We at Rights Bahamas will do everything we can to keep calm throughout this issue. As you have noticed, we have not been demonstrating, we have not been on the radio or TV promoting civil unrest or violence or demonstrations at all on this issue, because it is important to keep this at a low temperature. And so, I beg my government not to approach these things in such a harsh dogmatic way.”

Smith also asked who will pay to relocate the thousands of persons who will be displaced.

“People in these predominately Haitian communities are not a pestilence or disease on our community, these are human beings that are forced to live in these circumstances because of lack of finances,” he said.

“You think people like to live without toilets, or like to live without water or they like to live without electricity or they like to live in dirty surroundings? If you are going to provide for low cost housing or you’re going to relocate them, that is going to cost the Bahamian taxpayer a lot of money to relocate thousands and thousands of people. Otherwise what are you going to do? Bulldoze their homes and have them walk around in the streets? You cannot do that man.”

Earlier this month, Works Minister Desmond Bannister said the government will fully “eradicate” shanty towns and clean up the area.

His comments came after a massive fire ripped through the Mudd community, leaving 30 homes destroyed and nearly 100 persons homeless. It was the second fire in that community in a little over a month.