The Government intends to “fulfill” its Christian duty and make the eviction exercise for shantytown residents in New Providence as seamless as possible said Minister of Labour, Senator the Hon. Dion Foulkes. Senator Foulkes affirmed that the transition deadline of August 10, for all residents, to leave shanty towns in New Providence is “firm” and “irrevocable” as he urged the residents to move by the deadline which was extended from July 31. All of the land in the shanty towns is owned by the government and was previously leased for farming. “Most of the leases have expired,” said Minister Foulkes. “It is crown land; the people’s land and the government holds the land in the name of the Bahamian people.”
Minister Foulkes, the Shantytown Action Task Force and representatives of the Red Cross, Haitian Pastors League, and Haitian associations addressed a press conference at the National Training Agency, Gladstone Road, Wednesday, August 1. A utility disconnection exercise for Bahamas Power and Light, Cable Bahamas and Water and Sewerage will take place before August 10. Furthermore, Minister Foulkes revealed that all animals including dogs, cats, and chickens in the shanty towns will be removed during an exercise on August 8 by the canine units of the Bahamas Humane Society and the Ministry of Agriculture. Minister Foulkes said the members of the task force have been working on a full and part-time basis and have taken into consideration every aspect from a technical and human point of view.
Representatives of some of the subcommittees gave brief reports of inspections in the shanty towns. Pastor Jean Paul Charles, leader of the Haitian Pastors League, said his association is assisting 150-200 families who are willing to move but are experiencing challenges with finding sureties and funds for rental purposes. “We in the Haitian community understand that the government should be able to protect and preserve the health care of the people and the environment of the shanty towns,” he said. He appealed to the government to have the law in one hand and compassion on the other hand. Among the challenges faced by the government are homes in shanty towns, which are code [building] worthy and have connections for BPL and Cable Bahamas, but are surrounded by homes that will be demolished.
“There is a nice home off of Bacardi Road, which is built to code and owned by a Bahamian of several generations. The problem with the second [home] is that it does not make the offsets for the Building Control division in terms of [its] distance from other homes. That is a decision that Cabinet has to make in terms of how we approach that,” said Senator Foulkes. With the exception of the two areas, all of the other shanty town areas will be demolished. Another challenge is that parents of children who reside in the shanty towns prefer them to attend schools in the neighborhood where they are presently enrolled. Senator Foulkes said 10 of the 11 shanty towns are in the Carmichael Road community and most of the children in the shanty towns attend primary and high schools in the area. Moreover, he said many of the residents are employed at jobs in the Carmichael Road community which makes relocating to find rental options in areas outside of Carmichael Road the least option.