Minister of Housing Denis Kellman is being slammed for characterizing Six Men’s residents who are complaining about expansion work at Port Ferdinand Marina as squatters.
The criticism has come from social activists David Comissiong and Robert “Bobby” Clarke who accused Kellman of treating residents unfairly in favour of a developer.
Residents close to the St Peter development have complained that they have been left in the dark over plans to build a new road leading into the marina and expressed concern that the digging and dredging work was coming dangerously close to their homes.
However, Minister of Housing and Lands and Denis Kellman told the media last week: “What you might have seen are squatters complaining . . . . The only difference is that the person they are complaining about has permission, but they do not have permission.”
Speaking at the University of Independence Square over the weekend, Comissiong and Clarke said Kellman was wrong to describe the residents in that way.
He said the land was the property of the people, either through labour on the land or Government purchase, so the Minister of Housing was wrong to call residents, squatters.
“He dismissed them as if they didn’t exist,” Commisiong said. “I would like to tell the minister that all the land in Barbados has been paid for many times over by the blood, sweat and tears of the ancestors of the black people of this country. Through centuries of slave labour it has been paid for, and you dismiss black people whose families . . . live there, [for] some wealthy expatriate. You dismiss these people and tell them they are squatters, they have no rights,” Comissiong said.
Clarke reminded the small Independence Square audience that Government, under the former Owen Arthur administration, had bought the land with taxpayers’ money.
He added that the residents were promised development of the area but to this day, “they have more than 200 tenants on that land. They have no roads on that land. You go through little tracks.”
“You have no ownership of that land. You cannot go to a bank and or lending agency or a credit union to put on a toilet on your house, because you have no papers anyway to borrow any money,” Clarke said.
Opposition MP Trevor Prescod described the situation as an example of private sector interests influencing Government.
“Corporate Barbados now has an executive arm in the form of the state. This is a new form of governance all together. One day we were talking about the judiciary, the executive, the legislature, now you got an executive form in the Government.
“And because the politicians . . . go cap in hand and beg them for money in order to carry out these special types of election campaigns in this country, then they have to understand that when they get the millions of dollars, there is something called payback time,” Prescod alleged.