Battle for land - MP, mayor side with Westmoreland squatters
Fresh battle lines have been drawn in the ongoing dispute over an 867-acre property in Westmoreland as members of the political directorate, including Western Westmoreland's member of parliament, Wykeham McNeill, take the side of the residents who are locked in a legal battle with the owner of the property.
During a press conference at the St George's Methodist Church meeting hall in Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland, yesterday, McNeill and Savanna-la-Mar's mayor, Councillor Bertel Moore, made it clear that they were on the side of the residents in the dispute that has been raging since 2003.
"We believe that where you have a situation with 500 settlers who have been on the land for decades, you can't just say everybody must move like that," said McNeill. "There must be discussion and dialogue, and we all stand squarely beside the residents of Little Bay, Brighton, and Salmon Point."
McNeill said that he was not pleased that the concerns of the residents were not getting the requisite attention and wanted to see the imbalance addressed.
"One of the difficulties I have is that it has only been one side of the story that is being told," stated McNeill. "I don't know how you can deal with relocating entire towns. These are real issues that have to be addressed."
Moore, who is also chairman of the Westmoreland Municipal Corporation, said that many of the Little Bay residents have lived on the disputed lands for at least two generations.
"When those people came and said that they bought the land, I know that you were all living on that land already," explained Moore to the aggrieved residents. "I know of persons living there for over 67 years, and I don't see how these persons want to remove you just like that.
"Whatever it takes for us as councillors, we will be ready to fight with you until the end," said Moore in declaring his solidarity with the residents.
A week ago, the High Court set aside a 2011 stay-of-eviction it had allowed the illegal occupants to remain and ordered them to vacate the property, and, if they did not, the owners, John and Kathleen Eugster, had the right to recover possession of their property.