LAND BATTLE ON
Golding willing to plead case for Pleasant Hill families facing eviction
Opposition Leader Mark Golding said he will seek dialogue with the Government with a view to averting the impending eviction of several families now occupying lands handed down to them in Pleasant Hill, St Catherine. The 65 families, some of whom...
Opposition Leader Mark Golding said he will seek dialogue with the Government with a view to averting the impending eviction of several families now occupying lands handed down to them in Pleasant Hill, St Catherine.
The 65 families, some of whom have been living on the lands originally leased from Worthy Park Estates by their parents and grandparents for more than 50 years, were served notices to vacate the properties by December 6.
Under the arrangement, the families would cultivate sugar cane to sell to the nearby Worthy Park Estates.
The Gleaner was informed that the Government acquired the lands a few decades ago after which many residents stopped paying on their leases as they awaited news on how they would be able to fully purchase the properties they occupied.
Two Thursdays ago, the residents were surprised with the eviction notices dated October 6.
“Take notice that you are hereby required to cease occupation, vacate and deliver up possession of and remove any fencing and/or temporary structure(s) erected by you on land ... on or before the 6th day of December 2022,” a notice seen by The Gleaner read.
The notice further said the properties were owned by the commissioner of lands and that should they fail to leave voluntarily, they would be forcibly evicted.
“We will have to pursue this, and we intend to pursue this further, we want to find out from the authorities what was in their minds when they did this, and we want to ensure that this ends here,” Golding said during a tour on Friday.
“We will make representation on their behalf to see exactly what the thinking was because on the face, it doesn’t make any sense for this community to be uprooted like this with no alternate arrangements and they have nowhere to go,” he continued.
Golding said that if the talks are not fruitful, the opposition People’s National Party (PNP), for which he is president, will take the matter to court to protect the rights of the residents.
“There are many doctrines in law that could protect them – the Constitution itself, which guarantees certain rights, and there is also the common law,” Golding pointed out as he toured the area with other PNP officials.
He added that he expects a regularisation of the residents’ tenure since their applications were submitted before the pandemic.
Tension has been brewing in the community since the residents were served notices and in the wake of the demolition of 10 unfinished structures on the outskirts of Clifton in the parish just over a week ago after residents reportedly failed to comply with orders to leave the state property.
Some of those affected have produced receipts, showing that they had been duped into paying huge sums of money to unauthorised persons for the lots, which were being illegally sold.
On Friday, Golding said that the residents of Pleasant Hill should be given a chance to pay for the land using the unimproved value as the starting point for any negotiation.
“They have invested their earnings in the land over the years and their investments shouldn’t be charged back to them,” Golding asserted, adding that the Government will have to be reasonable and put an affordable payment plan in place.
Irving Graham, who inherited his plot of land from his parents, has been living there for 51 years. He noted that he has nowhere to go if he is forced to give up the property.
“Mi nuh have nowhere to live, unless a under one cave. Mi and my son and him family will have live under one big stone cave for Christmas. That will be mi Christmas present,” Graham told The Gleaner.
He said his grandmother had leased the land from Worthy Park and was paying for it, and when she died, his brother took up the payments.
Graham said that he took over the payment after his brother left, but was told not to pay any more money because the Government was coming in to settle with them.
A woman who gave her name only as Rose, who had been living on her plot of land for 25 years, having inherited it from her parents, expressed fear that she could also be left in the cold.
“Them come and give a notice, and the man say that we shouldn’t go tek pressure pill or panic and sell out what we have because dem not going to run we off the land, but afterwards, we hear seh a something serious because dem going to lick down we house by the 6th of December,” she told The Gleaner.
Rose said that her parents had been paying rent for the land.
“It is very bad if they are really serious about this. All dem had to do is cut up the land sell it to us at a reasonable rate,” she added.