Pleasant Hill families still fear eviction
Despite the Supreme Court granting an injunction sparing them from eviction until the matter is heard, some 65 families in Pleasant Hill in Lluidas Vale, St Catherine remain on edge. The injunction was handed down in February, following a lawsuit...
Despite the Supreme Court granting an injunction sparing them from eviction until the matter is heard, some 65 families in Pleasant Hill in Lluidas Vale, St Catherine remain on edge.
The injunction was handed down in February, following a lawsuit filed on their behalf by the Mark Golding-led parliamentary Opposition.
The 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, and which now belong to the Government, told The Gleaner that they continue to live under storm clouds of uncertainty. Those dark clouds began gathering on October 6 last year, when they were issued with notices to vacate the properties. They were told to leave the area within two months or face forceful eviction.
Golding had visited the community after the ultimatum was given and assured the residents that he would be seeking answers from the Government on the motives behind the planned eviction. He had told them that, if a response was not forthcoming, he would seek justice on their behalf in the high court.
Beverly Gordon, a single parent of three who has lived on the plot of land she now occupies for more than 20 years, told The Gleaner that she has been in turmoil since she was served notice.
“I put everything on hold, the little house mi start to build, mi farm that send my children to school. It is hard for me, even the chicken and pig them that mi a raise, mi have fi sell them out and nuh get no more because mi nuh know when them a come bruk down mi house,” Gordon said.
She said that while she appreciated the court intervention, she is still fearful as there is no guarantee that the ruling will favour the families.
“It gives me little bit of assurance, but what we want is title in a we hand. I want them to regularise the land like they promised before all this come up and give us that piece of paper (title) and we will feel better,” she added.
Gordon revealed that the education of her children, one of whom attends a high school, has been severely affected, as she is no longer able to afford sending them to school regularly.
The little she earns from the cash crops, which are grown on a reduced scale, is not sufficient to sustain a full week of school attendance, pay the electricity bill and buy water for domestic purposes, as the area is not having piped water.
A bit more hopeful
Third-generation occupant Martin Moiten, a father of three primary-school children, said that while he still harbours some fears, he is a bit more hopeful now that there is an injunction and a pending court hearing.
“It has been a rough five months for me and my family since they came with the notice. I had to close down my little shop that was providing money for food and sending the kids to school and other necessities,” he told The Gleaner.
“See here, nothing in the shop. I had to sell out everything,” he said, opening the door of the small shop to reveal its empty shelves.
According to Moiten, he has not restocked the shop out of fear that he could lose everything, in the event of a demolition exercise.
The injunction now allows him to restart his business on a limited scale and he watches keenly how the court proceedings unfold.
Sixty-four-year-old Andria Duhaney is hoping the ruling will be in their favour and that the National Land Agency will commence the regularisation process.
“It has been sleepless nights. My blood pressure goes up and down daily. Although we nuh have no road and pipe water, we were living in peace before all of this. It’s very hard on us not knowing what is going to happen,” Duhaney lamented.
She said that knowing that they are covered under the court has brought a slight sense of relief. Now, they are trusting in God for safety and security.
“We were asked to apply for the land in 2000, and they have the applications, and, instead of surveying the land and give us our titles, they gave us eviction notices. We just want somebody to tell us the truth,” she added.
Attorney-at-law Isat Buchanan, who is representing the Opposition on behalf of the families, declined to comment on the injunction. However, he told The Gleaner that the posture from the National Land Agency is very compassionate, not adversarial, and they have no intention of displacing the families.
“I don’t anticipate that there will be a repeat of the unfortunate situation that took place at Clifton,” Buchanan noted, referring to the demolition of 10 structures on the outskirts of Clifton by the Government late last year after they reportedly bought lots from unauthorised persons and began building homes.
In his Budget Debate presentation last Tuesday, Golding said that the Pleasant Hill families were settled on the lands in the 1970s by the then prime minister, Michael Manley.
He also signalled that the People’s National Party would be seeking redress for the people whose unfinished houses near Clifton which were demolished by the Government.