Tue | Apr 25, 2017

Introduce legislation to remove politically motivated squatters

Published:Saturday | September 27, 2014 | 9:00 AM
Informal settlements along the main road near Old Fort Bay.
Squatting in the Drax Hall area of St Ann will have serious consequences, writes Michael Ennis.
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Back in November 2010, then JLP Senator Dennis Meadows suggested criminalising the act of squatting. I responded by pointing out the folly of criminalising something you cannot police. Instead, I urged the good senator to take on my proposal (Gleaner, 'Cancer of squatting spreads', June 21, 2009) to introduce legislation that would prevent persons from registering to vote from an address they illegally occupy.

The good senator, if he had any intention of taking on my suggestion, didn't indicate so in his remaining short stint in the Senate, as he was not reappointed by his party. I have returned to this subject five years later, because as we all know, cancer is a disease that spreads silently and, in many instances, when discovered, the illness is terminal.

I had reason to be looking at the Drax Hall end of the North-South highway being built by the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) a few days ago, and noticed a most curious activity. From the main road, I could see people building houses in what appears to be the pathway of the new highway.

On further inquiry, I could see the pegs and flag markers planted by CHEC right next to a spanking new house. I asked myself, how could this be? Surely, these people must know that they cannot stay there. Upon even further inquiry, I was told the "MP gi we dis ... a shower we a seh ... nobody cyan move we".

Now, I have no proof that the MP gave them permission to go squat on this particular piece of land, but what is undeniable is that she must be aware of what is happening. I am told by persons in the area, who themselves are there informally, but have been there for more than 20 years, that these newcomers, whose numbers are now approaching 100, are there to benefit from the presence of the highway. These people aren't homeless but opportunists.

And so, once again, I am calling on the member of parliament for North East St Ann to discourage persons from squatting on government land in the constituency. All over this constituency, you can see people clearing land and putting up ply board houses and, in many cases, huge block and steel houses.

Encouraging people to squat for the purposes of vote by either party is not only short-sighted, but will eventually lead to the destruction of the community. Many others, including me, have pointed out the ills that come along with this practice, yet no one seems to be listening.

I can see clearly the day when Roaring River will become the same as Flankers. That may make North East St Ann into a garrison! Do the voters of this constituency believe that that would be a good thing? Does the MP think that would be a good thing? Does the business community of North East St Ann believe that transforming Roaring River into Flankers is a good thing?

Soon, the highway construction will approach Roaring River and the argument will start as to who is entitled to relocation and who is not; who is to be paid to move and who will just be bulldozed. Then the demonstrations will start because the MP has to protect her votes.

The Government will be considered wicked and inconsiderate because these poor people have no place to live. Unbeknown to most, these persons are encouraged to move from legitimate homes all across the country to come to North East St Ann. These are not homeless people. Homeless persons can't build the type of houses being built in Roaring River.

I am calling on the Parliament (both Lower House and Senate) to introduce legislation to remove the political motivation for this practice. No one should be allowed to register to vote from addresses of land you squat on, public or private. The damage to the community and society far outweighs any benefit derived by either political party.

MICHAEL ENNIS

Vice-chairman, PNP Constituency Committee

North East St Ann