Wed | Sep 19, 2018

Save us, ‘Uncle Sam’! - Westmoreland squatters want Karl Samuda to do for them what he did for Red Hills Road squatters

Published:Sunday | June 17, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Several of the residents of Little Bay, Westmoreland, who want Cabinet member Karl Samuda to lead the Government’s charge to save them from eviction.
Businessman Dennis A. Rankine with several of his neighbours in the background.
Samuda
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Hundreds of residents occupying a property in Westmoreland, which has Kathleen Eugster and her late husband John as the registered title holders, are petitioning the Government through Cabinet member Karl Samuda, to do for them what was done for squatters at 85 Red Hills Road in St Andrew.

Samuda, a minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, used his clout to convince the Andrew Holness administration to use the 1977 Local Improvements (Communities Amenities) Act to acquire the property on Red Hills Road in his St Andrew North Central constituency, to prevent the eviction of persons who had been living there for more than 30 years.

"The Government stepped in and helped the people on Red Hills Road. I am asking them to do the same for us," said president of the Little Bay Citizens' Association, Jess Beach, one of 37 persons on whose behalf court action was taken to prevent the eviction of the residents.

According to Beach, she has received a call from Samuda's office and is hoping for the best.

Beach was one of the more than 100 residents of a section of the 867-acre Westmoreland property known as Little Bay who spoke with The Sunday Gleaner when our news team visited the property last week.

She was supported by businessman Dennis Rankine, who has been living on the property for nearly 30 years, and who alleges that he has more than $60 million invested in the property.

"Is somebody going to pay me for my investment? Look here, no one wants to live here with this hanging over their heads. Everybody is willing to pay for where they are. Nobody did anything to develop the land. We did everything," said Rankine, to shouts of "true, true" from his fellow residents.

"We are not less than anybody else. We are not 'Children of a lesser God'. We want the Government to step in, sort out the matter and we will pay back the Government," added Rankine.

 

Sceptical about acquisition

 

Fellow resident Louise Brown, like all the other residents, is sceptical about the process which allowed the Eugsters to obtain title to 867 acres of the land, all of which represent the beachfront part of the property, and which was said to be previously owned by an R.O. Terrier.

"I have been living on this land for 63 years. My father was the overseer who was put in place by the landowner George W. Barber, Sr. The house we live in was given to us by Mr Barber, and at no time were we told that the land was sold," said Louise Brown, daughter of the late Wilton Brown.

She said Terrier is believed to have defaulted on a loan to Mr Barber and offered the property to him as payment for the outstanding sums in a gentleman's agreement. According to her, at no time did the Barber family tell them that the land was sold.

Member of Parliament for the area, Dr Wykeham McNeill, has also questioned if the court, which ruled that the residents should be evicted, heard the stories behind previous ownership and the permission given to many persons to use sections of the property.

While declaring his support for the rule of law, McNeill said he has heard, and is aware of, many of the stories surrounding the use of the land over the years.

Like Darlene, whose relatives have lived on the property for 44 years, McNeill is hopeful that the matter will be resolved "in the best interest of all".

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com