By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE Supreme Court order blocking the government from clearing out shanty towns in the country now prevents those residents from altering or expanding those communities.
The government was granted a variation of the August 2018 injunction blocking evictions and service disconnections in an order filed on March 14 and obtained by The Tribune.
“Further,” the order read, “pending the determination of this action or until such further order, the 177 applicants and other residents and occupiers of the land in shanty towns in New Providence or elsewhere in The Bahamas shall take no action to construct, erect and or alter any further buildings or structures otherwise than in accordance with the Buildings Regulation Act.”
The government sought a variation of the order in October 2018, claiming it was made aware that certain residents or occupiers of shanty towns in New Providence had “continued to engage in the construction, erection and alteration of buildings or structures” within those areas without obtaining building permits, in violation of the Buildings Regulations Act.
It said such activities “injure the public interest in the proper enforcement of planning laws, creates risk to human safety by the construction of sub-standard housing, and is detrimental to the orderly development and use of the environment.”
Last August, Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson ordered the government and utility providers to halt any planned service disconnections or evictions in shanty towns pending a judicial review of the Minnis administration’s policy to eradicate those communities.
The injunction prohibits the government, directly or through its agents, appointees or employees, from taking possession of, demolishing any building on, or otherwise interfering with the enjoyment of land in shantytowns in New Providence by the 177 applicants for the judicial review, as well as other residents’ and occupiers’ of those communities, by disconnecting any utilities “other than pursuant to the relevant enabling legislation” pending the determination of the action or until further order.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, Attorney General Carl Bethel, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes, Public Works Minister Desmond Bannister, Bahamas Power and Light, and the Water and Sewerage Corporation are listed as the respondents.
Non-profit group Respect Our Homes Limited (ROHL) and Luanne Nonord and the 177 residents are listed as the applicants.
Shanty town residents are seeking to ventilate concerns the government’s “eradication policy” and subsequent evictions are unlawful, unconstitutional, and motivated by ethnic discrimination without clear title to land ownership.
Last week, Marsh Harbour Township Chairman Roscoe Thompson, a member of the Abaco shanty town task force, said he reported as many as three houses being put up in the Mud.
“There were three or four new houses being put up,” Mr Thompson said on Thursday, “and I’m going to go down there tomorrow to see if they stopped them, but it doesn’t look like nobody cares now. We haven’t heard a word, we haven’t had a meeting. I don’t know how long its been.
“But it’s pretty much the same,” Mr Thompson added, “a lot of talk, no action.”