Capture land woes
Houses of squatters demolished on Trelawny propertyThursday, July 22, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
SCARLETT HALL, Trelawny — Scores of individuals who informally occupy lots on a 167-acre property in Scarlett Hall, Trelawny, are now picking up the pieces after unknown masked men, wielding sledge hammers, demolished about six of the several houses under construction during a pre-dawn operation last Friday.
According to one of the settlers, Warner Williams, who was among a group of people who massed on the premises when the Jamaica Observer West visited hours after the demolition, the squatters have obtained legal representation to secure sections of the property under adverse possession.
A squatter, under the laws of Jamaica, can claim superior right of ownership where the court finds that the registered title-holder failed to do anything for upwards of 12 years, if there was an intention to occupy, and the squatter was undisturbed and unmolested. This windfall is also known as adverse possession.
“We are trying to get adverse possession of land. We have been on this piece of land for over 12 years. We obtain lawyers from Morgan and Collins law firm, and they are fighting for us. As of right now, we're in court. As far as we know, trying to gain, whatever proper documents, it is that we need to get at this moment,” stated Williams.
“ I am so in disarray right now as to what happened because I would assume that in Jamaica, based upon the law, that they would have followed protocol and say that go through the court system, and do what they were supposed to do the rightful way. So I guess here in Jamaica, there's still a lot of oppressors and persons trying to destroy the poor people,” he added.
Another disheartened occupier of the land, who gave his name as John Brown, had similar concerns as Williams.
“It has been 14 years now we have been in this community. Every year me come through this place come pick guinep, tobacco, because people plant tobacco, so we never know say people own these lands. For 14 years now nobody never used to come in these wilderness. The people dem say alright we going cut out the land make it look better and start build houses and now is this reach us,” he bemoaned.
“We want to pay our taxes and allow Government to come in and set up infrastructure. We just see people come in and start lick down from left to right and 14 years we never see them. If they say is their land, we just pay for it, that a no nothing. We don't expect the land free, but we still take care of the land,” Brown said.
Another man, who chimed in, expressed his apprehension that the demolition team will be returning to finish the job they started.
“We fearful that the demolition team will return, but we have to have trust in God. God is the master of everything, a God a do everything now. We here now for 14 years and we never see them,” he argued.
In May, the Trelawny Municipal Corporation (TMC) placed a stop order on the construction of the structures, leaving people who bought the land from unsanctioned agents facing the possibility of losing their investment.
Attorney Gordon Brown, who says he owns a section of the land, disclosed a move afoot to wrest possession of the property from the occupiers.
“We are going to seek an injunction to restrain the continued breach of the law by all of these trespassers and for the structures to be demolished and in default of their demolition, for us to demolish them ourselves,” Brown told the Observer West then.
Brown was among the over 100 individuals to have been served stop order notices by the TMC for construction to cease on the seafront property.
Ironically, Friday's flattening of the structures was not ordered by Brown.
According to Mayor of Falmouth Councillor C Junior Gager, the operation was undertaken on behalf of Vilma Richards, another owner of the nearly 200-acre beachfront estate.
“What went down on Friday is that the owners moved to clear their land,” he pointed out.
Gager, who is also the chairman of the TMC, revealed that the municipality is now preparing to also serve stop order notices on Richards later this week.
He revealed that the owners have earmarked the land for major development.
Meanwhile, when contacted by the Observer West an attorney representing the squatters said that: “We are taking instructions from our clients.”
Commander of the Area One Police, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Clifford Chambers, has committed to meet with the stakeholders to address the issue.
“I am just trying to have a sit-down with stakeholders to see where we go from there. As it relates to what went down on the day, I am trying to piece the information together,” ACP Chambers said.
Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login