Thu | Feb 2, 2023

Thwaites cautions against plans to evict Little Bay land occupants

Published:Monday | March 7, 2022 | 12:06 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
An image of one of several properties in Little Bay, Westmoreland, where the owner received an eviction notice.
An image of one of several properties in Little Bay, Westmoreland, where the owner received an eviction notice.
Business owner Suzan McKenzie, one of several persons served with a notice to vacate the properties they are occupying in Little Bay and Brighton in Westmoreland.
Business owner Suzan McKenzie, one of several persons served with a notice to vacate the properties they are occupying in Little Bay and Brighton in Westmoreland.
Business owner Suzan McKenzie shows the eviction notice that was erected on her property last week.
Business owner Suzan McKenzie shows the eviction notice that was erected on her property last week.
Egloyn Bernard, one of the residents served with an eviction notice in Little Bay, Westmoreland.
Egloyn Bernard, one of the residents served with an eviction notice in Little Bay, Westmoreland.
Richard Douglas McCloud, one of the persons who were served notice to vacate lands occupied in the Little Bay and Brighton communities in Westmoreland in February.
Richard Douglas McCloud, one of the persons who were served notice to vacate lands occupied in the Little Bay and Brighton communities in Westmoreland in February.
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WESTERN BUREAU:

ATTORNEY-AT-LAW REVEREND Ronald Thwaites is warning defendant Kathleen Eugster, owner of over 451 acres of lands in Old Hope, Westmoreland, that any adverse action to remove occupants of the controversial property will be in contravention of their rights to their property by adverse possession.

Thwaites is representing several occupants of lands, located in Brighton and Little Bay, Westmoreland, that is owned by the defendant. The residents have, for several decades, captured and lived on the land undisturbed.

According to the former government minister, applications for registered titles by adverse possession are in train.

“I wish to point out that the persons I represent, and, to the best of my impressions of the other persons who lived on the property, they are not seeking to steal the land from anyone,” he said. “They want to buy the property.”

His comments follow a demonstration by affected residents, after an eviction notice by the owner was served last week for them to surrender possession.

The eviction notice ordered persons to immediately vacate the premises they now occupy ‘as squatters’, and that they will be ‘evicted without further notice’.

However, some residents, who have been living in the area for more than five decades and have nowhere to go, are hoping that an amicable solution can be arrived at in the shortest possible time.

“I have been paying tax on the land for about seven years now, so we are here because of the violation, where they want to move people and smash down our houses,” Richard Douglas McCloud, an affected resident, said.” They need to come in and give us the chance to buy the land on which we have been living all these years.”

DOWN THE DRAIN

But Suzan McKenzie, owner of bed and breakfast operation Judy’s House, is worried that her investment will go down the drain, after she discovered three years ago that the person she purchased her land from is not the legitimate owner and is nowhere to be found.

“Everybody is terrified that we are going to hear the noise, in the night, of tractors coming to break down our places,” she said. “The land is where they keep their goats, the chicken; it’s where they go fishing from; it’s where their children have grown up; it’s an impossible situation.

“I just have to wait and see what the Government will do,” said McKenzie.

Thwaites also told The Gleaner that a letter seeking a workable solution between the parties has been dispatched to the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation.

“I have written to Minister (Robert) Montague and urged him to use his good office to step in and mediate a solution between those who live on the property, those who wish to buy, and the holders of the registered title.”

Thwaites said he will be writing to National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang, with a view to preventing any physical confrontation, should the owners persist in the current mode, which he described as frightening.

“If there is any attempt to bulldoze the place and to run off the people, I would be fearful in this time of escalated crime and distress in the community,” Thwaites warned. “I would be very fearful of what will take place, as more lives could be lost.”