Opposition seeks court ruling on Clifton demolitions
This house was the only one left standing after Government ordered the demolition of structures being built illegally on lands owned by the State in Clifton, St Catherine.

OPPOSITION Leader Mark Golding says his lawyers are preparing a claim to be filed in the Supreme Court for compensation for people whose unfinished houses on Government property in Clifton, near Bernard Lodge in St Catherine, were demolished last October.

On Thursday, October 6, illegally constructed houses in the Clifton area were demolished under orders from Prime Minister Andrew Holness, an act, which Golding said "can only be described as a most cruel and inhumane act by agents of the State".

Holness had told Parliament a day before the demolition that structures illegally erected on lands adjoining the Clifton community had been captured by criminal gangs.

The lands, which are in the Greater Bernard Lodge Development Area, had been designated for agricultural purposes.

The prime minister said that the illegal settlers had been creating their own informal subdivision and selling these lands under the false pretence of ownership or building on them.

It was revealed in subsequent media reports that people had unsuspectingly purchased property in the area from unscrupulous individuals.

Golding, in his contribution to the 2023/24 Budget Debate in Parliament on Tuesday, noted that the Opposition has had to be vigilant in standing up for the people and defending their constitutional rights.

"We have assisted 65 families who have been living for many decades in the rural community of Providence, near Lluidas Vale in St Catherine, on lands which were purchased for them by the Michael Manley Government in the 1970s," he said.

Golding noted that last October they were, "unceremoniously and without prior discussion", served notices by the Government to vacate their homes. He said that the Opposition has been assisting these families to protect their rights to live in the homes they have built there over many years.

"When our lawyers were not provided with clear and firm assurances that were requested of the Government, an action was filed on their behalf in the Supreme Court. I am happy to say that I have been advised that an interim injunction has been granted by the Supreme Court to prevent any action being taken against them until the matter has been finally determined by the court," he said.

He stressed that the Opposition will continue to be vigilant when it comes to the "hard-won rights of the people", pointing out that it is not in agreement with the Government "in its repeated and ongoing use of states of emergency (SOEs) as a routine policing tool in areas where there is a flare-up of violence".

BY ALECIA SMITH Senior staff reporter smitha@jamaicaobserver.com

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