Beach battle - Steer Town residents cry for representation in Mammee Bay land dispute
The decades-old struggle for ownership of a 29-acre seaside property in Mammee Bay, St Ann, again erupted in street protests on Friday as residents of the Mammee Bay and Steer Town communities resisted efforts to permanently deny them access to the land for recreational and economic purposes.
Friday’s fiery demonstrations resulted in gunshots ringing out, allegedly by private security guards who had been assigned to the property.
Commandant for the St Ann police, Superintendent Calvin Small, said that the police are investigating the circumstances under which the shots were fired.
The Gleaner understands that dozens of shots were fired as security guards tried to disperse the angry mob that was demanding access to the land.
Fishermen who are members of the Steer Town and Mammee Bay Fishing and Recreation Association Limited, who have been using the property since the 1980s, still have their boats and other fishing equipment on the property and were not allowed access, The Gleaner was told.
The ownership of the land is being disputed.
The fishermen said that the land belongs to the association and are resisting any effort to evict them from the property.
A businessman who the fishermen said had come forward to claim the property could not be reached for comment on Saturday, and neither could mayor of St Ann’s Bay, Sydney Stewart.
Residents told The Gleaner that the security guards and police personnel who were still at the location on Saturday afternoon effectively denied access to the 45 fishermen who are members of the association, as well as regular beachgoers who go there for recreational purposes. Residents from Mammee Bay, Steer Town, Drax Hall, Epworth, Davis Town, and other communities use the beach from time to time.
“We, the people who have been using the property from back in the 1980s, want to maintain access to the land,” Ricardo Henry, vice-president of the association, said.
Henry said that the association has documents to prove its ownership of the property and is currently seeking legal representation.
Reactions to the latest effort to deny the public entry to the property were fierce.
Devon Taylor, a Steer Town resident who currently resides overseas, has accused the Government of abandoning the people it is charged to serve.
“The community is just in uproar in what seems to be some kind of covert approach. Not even councillor representation, mayoral representation, in the context of a legal framework to work something out with the community, and that is the concern the community is having. Absolutely no representation!” Taylor said.
“Engagement of the mayor and the councillor was met with a harsh pushback, so the people have to be taking matters into their own hands because the leadership that is supposed to be representing the people are fully aligned with the so-called ejection, and that is a huge problem,” he added.
Taylor said that there had been no meeting to discuss the grouse, except one called by the St Ann Municipal Corporation, which, he claimed, was “to push it down the people throat that hotel must build and is the man dem land”.
“The community is saying, ‘We don’t see fishermen’s rights being protected, we don’t see our recreational rights being protected, we don’t see vendors’ rights protected,’” Taylor said.
Some individuals have been offered $100,000 to vacate the property, The Gleaner understands.