Mon | Sep 25, 2023

‘Tell us how this happened’

PM appeals to purchasers of disputed lots to file reports; Jackson says SCJH not blameless

Published:Wednesday | October 12, 2022 | 12:14 AM

Persons whose unfinished houses were demolished last Thursday on land owned by the Sugar Company of Jamaica Holdings (SCJH) have been encouraged by Prime Minister Andrew Holness to provide statements to the police on how they purchased the lots.

In a statement to Parliament on Tuesday, Holness said there were claims by some that they did not get notices from the SCJH to vacate the land they occupied illegally.

He said that a team from the SCJH posted several ‘no trespassing’ signs as well as a demolition notice on March 1, 2022.

“I understand the frustration and upset, but we cannot allow untruths to survive,” Holness said.

It was also disclosed that the SCJH held a meeting on March 10, 2022, with members of the community to advise them to cease illegal construction activities.

“The SCJH took additional action by calling in members of the community including one prominent member of the community whose name appears on several receipts as having received payments purportedly in exchange for the land in the area,” said Holness.

He said that no complete structures were destroyed on the reserved lands, adding that “we didn’t throw out anybody’s furniture”.

Ten unfinished structures were demolished last Thursday, but one which had a covering was spared because it was not clear as to whether someone lived in the building, Holness said.

The prime minister said that those persons living on the reserved lands would be dealt with using a particular process.

Noting that soldiers and teachers have bought land in the area, the prime minister urged them to “come to the SCJH and you have to come with clean hands. Tell us how this happened”.

Member of Parliament for St Catherine South, Fitz Jackson, said that the parliamentary Opposition was in support of structured development, while strongly rejecting any form of criminal activity in the sale of lands.

However, Jackson took the SCJH to task for not acting decisively after he reported the illegal construction of houses on the reserved lands.

“I did my duty to report it to SCJH and for SCJH to take the requisite appropriate action,” he said.

Jackson said that SCJH failed to act “over an extended period of time. We can’t dismiss that, prime minister, … if a crisis was made, they helped to create a crisis by failing to act”.

He said that if officials at the state-owned company were fearful of being targeted by organized criminals they should have sought assistance from the police.