Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Battle over slave owner’s land

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 12:00 AMBarbara Gayle

The 3,657-acre plantation in Golden Vale, Portland, which Owen Kinlock left for his slaves in 1838 is now at the heart of a dispute in the Port Antonio Resident Magistrate's Court.

Sonic Ltd, a company registered in the Cayman Islands, is claiming ownership of the property, and has taken some of the farmers who have been occupying the property for decades to court to gain possession of the land.

Attorney-at law Everton Bird, who is representing the occupiers, is arguing that when Kinlock was compensated by the British Government at the end of slavery, he took his money and went to Ireland.

According to Bird, Kinlock left the property for the slaves and all he asked of them was that they convert to Christianity.

"The land was kicked around between the United Fruit Company and Operation Land Lease," said Bird, as he claimed that National Hero Norman Manley was once involved in the matter.

But now, Sonic Ltd claims it has a title for the property which it acquired from Sun Development Ltd and needs it for farming activities.

The first test of this claim came recently, when David Brown, who heads the association of some 60 families who live on the property, was served notice to quit the property and then summoned to court.

Brown, whose case was heard last month, claimed he had been farming on 30 acres of the land since 1963. He said he had been occupying the property without obstruction or molestation and no challenge was ever made against his possessory title.

Bird further argued that the company erred in giving the notices to the occupants in circumstances where there was no relationship of landlord and tenant between them. Bird also submitted that the matter should not be heard in the Resident Magistrate's Court because of the value of the land, and the court only had monetary jurisdiction of $1 million.

However, Resident Magistrate Tara Reid Carr ruled she had jurisdiction to hear the matter. Reid Carr further ordered that Brown should not continue to occupy the property until the case against him was decided.

Sonic Ltd is being represented by attorney-at-law Charles Ganga Singh.