April 10, 2022 | By Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie |
Speaking on Cliff Hughes Live the regular host of Friday’s airing, Mr. Mark Wignall has said inter alia:
There has to be something ethically wrong for someone to own land and leave it to bush up … they may have gone overseas and own four other properties”.
Really now, Mr. Mark Wignall!
It is most disappointing, to say the least that someone who occupies such a pivotal role as a known opinion producer, as Mr. Mark Wignall, finds, and is prepared to express the view that he finds it “ethically wrong” for people to leave their property and for people to squat and even capture, and by extension, are prepared to behave as such a property now belongs to them. We have sunk very low in our moral judgement, have we not?
Jamaica is by no means a dictatorship, we are governed by the rule of law. Have I missed something lately? The latest dispute is a prime piece of property in Little Bay, Hanover, to the most western end of Jamaica. There has been squatting there for an extended period. The legal owners have been to the courts who have ruled that the illegal occupiers should vacate the lands. When the legal owners armed with a Court Order to execute the warrant they were met with violence from either the squatters or their henchmen/agents. rabble rousers or thugs, which in fact they are trying exert their will by force, and disregard the law.
They poured gasoline on the bulldozers and threatened to set the equipment a blaze. This was after their attorney Reverend Ronald Thwaites has advised them that the matter is now beyond the “courthouse”. In short the court’s order must be respected and obeyed.
The prime minister has also advised the squatters that attempts were made to buy the property, but the government could not afford the asking price of the legal owners.
“This is pricy real estate”.
PM Holness said inter alia:
“Our budget could not afford this expenditure. We could purchase a piece of land and relocate the squatters as an alternative, so a resolution can be arrived at. It is up to the squatters to agree to this”
So concluded the PM as he addressed the squatters.
There have been a lot of squatting in Jamaica which sympathisers have attributed to slavery. When slavery ended and some of the large landowners left on or about the 1840’s, they were compensated by The British as slavery had ended. Unfortunately, the freed slaves were left landless. In fact there was a regularly quoted promise that a mule and forty acres were to be given to the landless or ex slaves. It is not clear if this promise was extensively honoured or this promise was even for Jamaica or just elsewhere.
Faced with a high crime rate which has reached pandemic proportions, the PM would be advised to proceed very cautiously so as to avoid any perception that the government he heads supports lawlessness and do not respect the ruling of the courts. The courts have cited Mr. Holness and his government for having violated the constitutional rights of the Jamaican people on at least two occasions under The Most Honourable Andrew Michael Holness tenure as Prime Minister. Quite impressive a track record, indeed!
We sympathize with the landless, but feel the law must be respected. We are not in a jungle society or a banana republic. Which investor would want to invest in a country that has no respect for the rule of law? We cannot think of too many such investors. What if they had a dispute that required court action?
This section of Jamaica is where hotels and tourist attractions are located. It is prime real estate that has the potential to fetch big bucks. Residents are important, but we need the foreign currency to build our economy. Squatters will not cut it … not at all.
What is needed is Reparation from our former enslavers and for such compensation to be fairly distributed or be put into a land bank to assist the landless.
Capturing of people’s property by squatting appears to be most attractive, but is illegal and very wrong Mr. Mark Wignall.
All is not lost to the potential squatter. Those so minded can legally acquire land by adverse possession. This is illegal occupancy which in a nutshell, after (12) twelve undisturbed years of occupancy on said capture lands, can be legally handed to squatters through the courts. This did not apply in the instant case at Little Bay, Hanover.
We hope Mr. Mark Wignall has been misquoted. What is your perspective? This is ours. Feel free to disagree.
Hopeton O’Connor-Dennie is a poet, elegist, author, and senior international journalist who writes for Vision Newspaper.