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Trelawny families call for PM’s intervention

Homeless!

Saturday, February 08, 2014    

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HAGUE HEIGHTS, Trelawny — Irate residents of Hague Heights have called on Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to help 22 families whose houses were demolished by a team from the Ministry of Housing yesterday.

The 20 housing units and others were constructed on a parcel of land owned by the ministry.

The distressed residents told the Jamaica Observer that between 7:00 am and midday, machete-wielding masked men used a bulldozer to demolish the structures. They were accompanied by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

The demolition was only halted after People’s National Party (PNP) councillor for the Martha Brae Division, Phillip Service, used his body as a human shield between the bulldozer and the structures that were still standing.

"Only Mr Service, the councillor for this area, come up and went into one of the house and said him would rather lose him life. This is not right; we need the prime minister to intervene,” said well-known PNP activist Fearon Campbell. Service, meanwhile, said he felt he had a duty to cause the demolition to stop, but maintained that he does not support squatting.

"That is not to say I support people just taking lands onto their own and to develop informally, but there should be a process of how people are informed," he explained.

The residents recounted that there was a previous attempt to remove them from the land, but it was blocked by former Jamaica Labour Party caretaker for North Trelawny, Dennis Meadows. The residents also accused the police of the indiscriminate use of pepper spray on them.

"Mi stan’ up inna di house with two of mi family [members] and di police come and spray pepper spray and di man dem just come with tractor and start bulldoze down di house and seh a Ministry of Housing lan’ and mi don’t know anything ’bout dat,” recounted resident David Menzie.

The parcel of land sits alongside Hague Settlement, where some 135 poor families were relocated by Government from Dump — an inner-city community on Tharpe Street in Falmouth — to accommodate the construction of the cruise ship pier.

Exactly a year ago, Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Transport Works and Housing, Dr Morais Guy, warned informal settlers against believing that the Government will naturally regulate squatter settlements.

He was speaking at a ceremony in Hague Settlement, where 21 families were handed keys to new houses constructed by Food for the Poor.

When the Observer contacted North Trelawny Member of Parliament Patrick Atkinson yesterday, he said he was on his way to meet with the homeless residents. He also could not verify if they were served eviction notices.

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