Cousins Cove residents threaten protest action over Gov't's failure to deliver on resettlement agreementThursday, November 25, 2021
BY ANTHONY LEWIS
COUSINS COVE, Hanover
Residents of Cousins Cove who were resettled there after they were displaced by the construction of the Northern Coastal Highway Improvement Project over 20 years ago have vowed to take strong protest action if the Government and its agencies do not fulfil their promise to put in place basic infrastructure in the community.
More than 60 residents of the over 100 people living in Cousins Cove were relocated by the then Government from sections of Lances Bay, Industry Cove and Green Island areas in Hanover, to facilitate the construction of the highway in the early aughts.
To facilitate the relocation, the then Ministry of Transport and Works commenced the development of a 191 residential lot subdivision for the residents who were to be displaced. However, some 20 years later — while housing is not an issue for the residents who were reportedly compensated for their property — the provision of running water, proper road infrastructure and electricity remain outstanding.
Believing that they were shafted, the disgruntled residents, who are at their wits' end, said their living conditions make them feel “less than other Jamaicans.”
“Dis ting mek wi feel lakka wi a nuh bady. Yuh nuh seet. And still, wi ah liv eena society mongst people...yow, mi is a man dat cyaan even too explain enuh because it luk lakka seh wi haffi guh block up di North Coast Highway dung deh fi wi git sum attention,” expressed a seemingly upset Everett Stewart,” a Rastafarian from Cousins Cove.
Stewart's views mirror the mood of the affected residents.
Mayor of Lucea Sheridan Samuels, who is the councillor for the Cauldwell Division (People's National Party), in which the area falls, said he has been encouraging the residents not to carry out their 'protest threat.' He had also promised to “make contacts” on behalf of the disgruntled residents. The issue was also raised at a recent monthly general meeting of the Hanover Municipal Corporation.
When the Jamaica Observer West visited the Cousins Cove area on Monday, some residents related that others had reportedly stated that they would prefer to squat on lands near the main road and in other cases live with families in other communities, rather than to remain in an area that they say is not suitable for civilised people.
“You have some people that got a lot and are waiting on the infrastructure to come in so that they can come in and build. So, they are waiting on it and they are not seeing it,” explained Darcy Durrant, one of the residents who were relocated to Cousins Cove 20 years ago.
Stewart noted that several operators who were once trucking water to the community have vowed not to resume due to the deplorable state of the roadway. Those who decide to come in, he added, are charging up to $5,000 to full one of his 450-gallon water tanks.
Arthur Crooks, another resident, told the Observer West that he has to utse his sports utility vehicle (SUV) to transport water for domestic purposes or pay up to $7,000 for a truckload of the commodity to fill his 900-gallon water tank.
Crooks, whose household consists of six people, said the 900-gallon tank of water usually lasts for about two weeks.
He told the Observer West that in February 2004, the National Works Agency (NWA) promised to construct a 1,000-gallon water storage tank in close proximity to his house, which would provide him with the commodity since there is no running water at the resettlement site.
Under the agreement too, he said, the NWA would provide a continuous supply of water to the tank.
The tank, Crooks said, was installed but the NWA did not fulfil its promise to supply it with water.
The resettlement area is characterised by hilly terrain and unpaved roadway made up of large stones and marl.
Besides the construction roads, the provision of water and electricity, the implementation of a sewage treatment plant and a recreation area were also part of the Government's development plan for the area.
However, these are yet to materialise and has resulted in people from other communities venturing into the resettlement area, constructing houses in the space designated for the sewage plant and the recreation area.
Up to yesterday, communications manager at the National Works Agency (NWA), Stephen Shaw, had not responded to queries made by the Observer West.
Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry, in an interview with the Observer West, said the Cousins Cove issue is one of several similar matters that her office is dealing with.
“We can say categorically that our complainants do not have a paved road but a road out of boulders, do not have piped water to their house and they get electricity somewhere across the road,” stated Harrison Henry.
“So, this is a matter where persons have been removed from their lawful places of abode and there is an inadequacy of infrastructure.”
The public defender said on March 18 of this year she requested, and later received information from the NWA regarding the plight of the residents.
More information, she said, is still outstanding.
The public defender related that in regards to her queries as to why the project was not completed, the NWA responded, “there were budgetary constraints experienced by NWA during 2002-2006 period, which adversely affected the remaining infrastructure being completed in a timely manner.”
Harrison Henry said the NWA tried unsuccessfully to get the National Housing Development Corporation and the National Housing Trust to take over the resettlement project.
She further disclosed that her office intends to submit the matter before the Infrastructure and Physical Development Committee of Parliament for its attention.
Member of Parliament for Hanover Western, Tamika Davis, in whose constituency Cousins Cove falls, disclosed that the Government is working on a new programme that seeks to formalise informal settlements, which is slated to be rolled out soon.
Davis, who won the seat in the September 2020 General Election on the Jamaica Labour Party's ticket, said Cousins Cove is likely to benefit under the initiative.
She urged the residents, who are in the process of forming a citizens' association, to “write a letter to me so that I can have something formal to work with.”