Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley today made a strong case for an overhaul of the Land Acquisition Act, as Government sought Parliament’s approval to abandon a 14-year-old compulsory acquisition at Weston St James.
Back in 2003, the House of Assembly approved the takeover of the property owned by Ralph Griffith with a view to clearing the watercourse following the 1995 Weston floods in which well-known calypsonian Carew lost his life.
However, Cabinet subsequently decided at a meeting on November 3, 2016 that it no longer required the land for the purpose for which it was acquired and agreed that it should be returned to its former owner.
Today, Lashley said while the former Barbados Labour Party Government may have been acting in the country’s best interest at the time, the landowner was made to suffer as a result of the actions of the state.
“My view is that when we look at the Land Acquisition Act one can argue that it is heavily, heavily, heavily, heavily in favour of the state,” Lashley said, while regretting that Griffith was made to suffer under the provisions of the Act.
“This land was acquired and was indeed in the possession of the state. It meant Sir at that time and during that time he [land owner] was dispossessed. He could not have used the land, but it was acquired for a public purpose and [now] we are coming back to abandon the acquisition.”
Lashley said his ministry and others had received numerous complaints from private citizens and businesses about such compulsory acquisitions, including the fact that they have had to wait lengthy periods for compensation.
Lashley was adamant that displaced landowners should be paid in a reasonable time, suggesting that Government could negotiate compensation other than money given its current financial constraints.
The Minister of Transport and Works however made it clear that citizens were not helpless, pointing to a 1999 case in which Parsons Pest Control successfully challenged Government’s compulsory acquisition of 17 acres of land.