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Go get back your money! - Government minister says persons should seek to retrieve funds paid for Dallas Mountain lands

Published:Thursday | December 3, 2015 | 12:00 AMDaraine Luton
A section of land bought by 'Jones' in Dallas Mountain, St Andrew.
A section of land in the hills of Bedward Gardens, in Dallas Mountains, St Andrew, where someone named Ava has staked a claim.

PERSONS WHO have fallen victim to a land scheme in Dallas Mountain, St Andrew, are being told to try and recover monies they paid for the property.

"My suggestion to them is that they seek to reclaim funds from those who they have paid it to," Dr Morais Guy, minister without portfolio in the housing ministry, told The Gleaner.

The Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigation Unit, an elite police squadron, is investigating the sale of government lands in the area that overlooks the Hope River.

"What is going to have to happen is that the law is going to have to take its full course, and those who have deposited money will have to get back money from those they gave it to," Guy said.

Lots were reportedly being sold for as low as $3,000 and as high as $25,000 to persons from all social classes, including teachers, police personnel, and soldiers, in a project being led by the Bedward Gardens Providence Society.

Guy said he was very concerned about the Dallas Mountain scheme and argued that a crime was being committed.

"They have engaged in an activity that is not sanctioned by the owner, so essentially, it is an illegal activity," the minister said.

Guy said that the State was not even contemplating regularising the development in the virgin St Andrew hills.

"If we encourage this to continue, there will be many more Dallas Mountains because people will recognise that they will be able to get a bag of money because Government, being the sucker it is, will always come in and make the wrong right," Guy said.

Hugh Gordon, president of the Bedward Gardens Providence Society, told The Gleaner last week that approximately 500 lots had been distributed and that the intention was to put "poor people" on lands and have them regularised later.

"The Bedward Gardens Providence Society, a wi did a deal with it through the Ministry of Housing, but we get to find out seh we are ahead of the minister, so we affi stop," Gordon had said.

Guy said Gordon's claims betrayed his lack of appreciation for the way the Government worked.

"There is no way that you can go ahead and do something and then say the Government must come in afterwards. You are encroaching. You are capturing Government lands and you are saying that Government has to take up the slack," the minister said.

Guy said that while there are many Jamaicans who have a genuine need for land for housing, and some resort to squatting, there are some "professional squatters" who move on to lands, hoping that it will be regularised so that they can get the proceeds.

"What we are finding is that many persons, even some of those who have bought lands at Dallas Mountain, have lands. ... They see a thing that looks too good to be true, they jump on it, and there is the expectation, based on antecedence, that Government will come in and do what is necessary," Guy said.

"Usually, what you find is that there is an indecent haste to start construction as soon as this thing comes along so that we would be morally obliged to have them continue living on the land," the minister said.

Guy said the occupation of lands for housing purposes cannot be arbitrary as environmental, health, and social issues, as well as the ability to put in place infrastructure such as roads, drains, water, and electricity have to be considered.

He said that the Government would not contemplate putting people to live in Dallas Mountain as there was no infrastructure there to support their existence.