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Plan Executed On Shanty Towns

A 30-member Inter-Ministry Committee charged with clamping

down on shantytowns has gotten to work executing a three-page action plan. It was put together to ensure that the regularization of shanty communities is in compliance with international standards.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Dion Foulkes said that given a mandate by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, the committee has the political will to reach their goal.

“We are making a concerted effort; this is the first time we have assessed this.

“The prime minister has given my committee and myself as chairman firm instructions. We have a timeline and a timetable. We have a consultative process and we are consulting every element of persons and groups including international groups, because we have some international covenants we have to comply with.

“So, we have to make sure complete all of the consultation process first before we speak to the public in details about what we are doing,” Mr. Foulkes said.

Mr. Foulkes said that if successful in regularizing the shanty towns , The Bahamas would be the first to make such a move.

“I know of no country in the world who have successfully settled or eliminated or dismantled shanty towns, if we are successful this would be the first time.
“I wish to assure the public that we have the political will to do this. It’s a three-page action plan that we have that have timelines of specific goals that we have to accomplish,” Mr. Foulkes said.

With five shanty towns in Grand Bahama, eleven in New Providence and others scattered across North Eleuthera, Andros and Abaco, Mr. Foulkes assured that dismantling these will be done as humanely as possible.

“We hope that we will be able to do this in a humane fashion, in a sensible fashion, because there are a lot of children who live in these shanty towns and we have to be very sensitive to that.
“Most of them are in school; most of the residents who live there are working. A large section of them are actually Bahamian citizens, either naturalized Bahamians or who are married and have rights to be here. A lot of the residents have work permits.

“The misperception of the residents in the shanty towns is [that they are] illegal and we intend to let them go through the process and have them deported.

“There is also a small criminal element in some of the bigger shanty towns. We are doing our due diligence to assure that is dealt with,” Mr. Foulkes said.

Mr. Foulkes said that out of the eleven shanty towns in New Providence, he and the committee have visited eight of them.
“There are three in the Eastern district and eight in the Southwestern district.

“The committee and myself have visited all eight, basically in the Carmichael Road area. Next week we will visit the ones out east.

“But we are determined to do this properly. We are not going to be rushed. We know that there is a lot of pressure and a lot of the Bahamians are concerned,” Mr. Foulkes said.

“There are a lot of health issues involved. There are a lot of communities that have grown up; regularized subdivisions around these shanty towns,” he said.

Mr. Foulkes said that he and the committee want the process to be one free of controversy, therefore information will be made public at the appropriate time.

“We will also consult the residents in these areas to make sure that every step of the way that the public is aware or what we are doing.

“I am going to make an official communication in the Senate and I will also have a press conference with other members of the committee. There we will reveal our timeline and the action plan that we have.

“We intend to consult the church community for example. We also intend to consult Civil Rights organizations, just to make sure that we are doing the right thing every step of the way and we want to bring the community on board with what we are doing.
“We don’t want it to be a contentious matter; we want it to be seamless in terms of what we are doing,” Mr. Foulkes said.
The government’s push to rid the country of these unregulated communities come in the wake of a fire in the Mudd, Abaco, last Sunday. Fifty-five structures were destroyed, displacing around 170 people.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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