Wed | Aug 16, 2017

Fishermen fuming over flood - Former UDC head says Forum fishing village was not ‘living quarters’

Published:Sunday | June 26, 2016 | 6:00 AMCorey Robinson
Fuming fishermen mill around at Forum Fishing Village on Port Henderson Road Portmore, St Catherine.
One of the fishermen inside the container he calls home at the Forum Fishing Village on Port Henderson Road Portmore, St Catherine.
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Fishermen and business operators at the New Forum Fishing Village, off Port Henderson Road in St Catherine, are furious over the conditions that they are now living in at the complex.

They claim that the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) served them a raw deal with their relocation two years ago.

Hours after heavy rains lashed sections of the island last Tuesday, the fishermen bemoaned the impact of the downpour which flooded eight containers designated by the UDC as storage and rest quarters for them.

The container partitions at the rear of the premises were not designed as permanent residence, but several fishermen are now living in them.

With the rain last week, several of the containers were flooded and the fishermen and business operators charged that it was never this bad at the Forum Hotel property, where they had operated from for decades.

Most said they went without sleep last Monday night, mopping water from the muddy containers while fighting off mosquitoes. At noon the following day, some fishermen were still drying their quarters.

"Dem say this is the place that we put up our tools and things in and that dem a go build a bunk house give we to sleep. When we take a stock, dem withdraw it and tell us that dem not giving us anywhere to live in," charged 55-year-old fisherman Lee Whittingham.

"That cannot be fair because they take us from 'round at Forum, where we did live in a we place and comfortable there, and they carry us over here where we have to be living under these sort of conditions," added Whittingham.

 

UNBEARABLE

 

"Right now, me have to sell my stove and give away a lot of them things there because the little stove cannot hold in here," declared Clive Gibson, another elderly fisherman, who said occupying the container can be unbearable at times, but that he has nowhere else to go.

"Me just a sleep and is the heat and dem things there that make me have to get up. And in the night, it is cold in here," said Gibson as he banged on the bare metal container.

"We go out and we risk our lives fishing because we have to feed the nation, and when we come back, we can't even get a comfortable rest?" charged Gibson.

The fishermen said they are charged $15,000 monthly for the cramped, leaky container partitions, which they are afraid to leave because of thieves who plague the area.

They have adequate shower and toilet facilities, but complain of a faulty sewer pipe, which renders the village a stinking place for customers at certain times of the day.

There is no electricity in the containers, which means the fishermen opt to steal electricity from nearby utility posts to operate radios or to charge their phones.

But the electricity theft will soon have to stop, explained Rose, an operator at the front of the premises, who said that the UDC has given herself and fellow shopkeepers until the end of the month to erect their own electrical wires to the power grid.

Rose pays $5,500 monthly for the bar she built in the area while operators in larger spaces pay $15,000 monthly.

"It is very much unfair because they moved us around here. We have to find money and material to build our shop, and when we finish, we still have to turn around and pay rent for the shop that we build.

"Is better them did build the shop and rent we it or lease we the land," argued Rose.

More than 140 fishermen were evicted in July 2014, following the sale of the Forum Hotel to the Portmore Marina Development.

They were given an eviction grant of $45,000, but that grant has long dried up and the fishermen are getting wet.

The UDC has been without a board of directors since the change of Government, but KD Knight, who chaired the entity at the time the vendors were relocated, charged that the fishermen and shop owners have little grounds on which to argue.

"They were specifically told they must not live on the premises. They were given money for relocation. What is it that they want?" asked Knight.

"At the time, they were very happy, very happy. But as you know, that is the mentality. You get unhappy now so that you can get more."