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Beeston Street squatters stay put

Published:Thursday | June 4, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Robert Pickersgill, Minister of Water, Land Environment and Climate Change (left), and Member of Parliament ffor West Kingston, Desmond McKenzie (second left) meeting with residents squatting at a property on Beeston Street in 2012 after the squatters were served with eviction notices.

Three years after persons squatting on premises on Beeston Street - near the Parliament building - were served notice to leave, many are still there, and they have been joined by a new set of squatters with claims that they have the Government's permission to stay.

When The Sunday Gleaner visited the property recently for the latest update on the approximately 80 adults and children ordered to leave in 2012, a woman there chastised our news team for "wanting them out on the street".

"Lef wi alone. A Pickersgill say we can stay yah so. Unnu look like unnu want to see people a live pan street," said the woman in reference to Robert Pickersgill, the minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change.

Efforts to contact water minister and People's National Party chairman Robert Pickersgill were unsuccessful, as calls to his cellular phone went unanswered.

But member of parliament for the area, Desmond McKenzie, said he was not aware of that arrangement or any instructions from Minister Pickersgill.




"I cannot confirm or deny what has been told to you, because I have had no conversation with Minister Pickersgill. But I will tell you that the people you are seeing there may be new squatters who have taken up residence," McKenzie told The Sunday Gleaner.

"Many of the original squatters moved out of the building after all the uncertainty. So it is possible that what you are seeing are new persons."

However, a government source last week supported the claim of the squatter.

According to the source, State agencies have instructed to grant extensions on the eviction notice. "So they have been living on extension after extension," charged the source as he noted that when The Sunday Gleaner broke the story in 2012, Pickersgill had indicated that it was not the policy of his administration to penalise persons for the circumstances in which they find themselves.

At that time, Pickersgill said a committee was to be established to work with the residents and social workers to arrive at a solution.

The National Land Agency (NLA), which owns the property, has also indicated that it had no plans to forcefully remove the squatters, despite the 90-day eviction notice served in 2012.

The NLA added that the matter is no longer in its hands but in the hands of Pickersgill's ministry.