“We might be abandoned, but we aren’t stupid!”
This was the reaction today from residents of White Hill, St Andrew to Government’s announcement that it will be resettling the entire rural community.
Describing the announcement as nothing more than an election gimmick, community spokeswoman Carlitha Andrews questioned why after three years of inaction Government was suddenly prepared to come to the rescue of the ill-fated community, which has been faced with extensive land slippage, water shortages and an impassable main road that was condemned by the authorities following heavy rains in November 2014.
Residents have since been persistently pleading with the authorities to put them out of their misery and virtual isolation, but the situation has only been getting worse.
And two weeks ago, just when it seemed all hope was gone, frustrated residents took matters into their own hands and started building themselves a new road.
However, unbeknown to them, Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development Dennis Kellman recently paid a visit to their community following which Government announced Wednesday that it was moving to relocate 22 houses to Farmers, St Thomas, with a view to ending all housing settlement in the problem plagued section of the Scotland District, which is prone to land slippage.
However, with a general election constitutionally due within the next seven months, Andrews is openly questioning Government’s motivation for taking action at this time.
“What the minister said is a bare election gimmick. We might be abandoned but we aren’t stupid. Why all of this time pass? It took them about three years to tell us about relocation. These are bare promises for election, we all know that,” a cynical Andrews told Barbados TODAY this afternoon, while calling on Kellman “to put his money where his mouth is”.
Andrews, dubbed the mayor of the community, said Government’s plans to construct five new houses at Farmers for the affected residents this year and another seven in 2018, amounted to no actual relief.
“This is no good news because it’s not guaranteed. What the minister said is not concrete. It’s a maybe or maybe not. We are furious.
“This is putting salt to our wound. He said when the funds are available so if the funds are never available, we will never move. I would have rather him to keep his mouth shut than to come with this story. He got we look like idiots. We were abandoned by authorities, but our brains aren’t on vacation,” she stressed.
Admittedly, Andrews said White Hill residents would love to move at a moment’s notice. However, she said no one had even bothered to discuss the planned relocation with them.
“What they [the authorities] are saying about us residents is a lie. Nobody asked me to move. I ready and I willing all like now. Whatever we learn is through the media and that is not good enough.
“I want Minister Kellman and [Minister of Transport and Works Michael] Lashley to just come and talk to us. We willing to talk,” she added.
Based on yesterday’s release issued through the Barbados Government Information Service, the Freundel Stuart administration will provide replacement units to the displaced residents free of cost, while the land on which they are to be sited is to be sold to non-land owners at $2.50 per square foot.
However, Andrews said given that they have been made to suffer so long, Government should not even think about charging them anything.
“In this situation he [Kellman] shouldn’t even say that. Them make White Hill people suffer for too long, them should pay for our pain and suffering. The money that we would have had for land had to spend in taxi fare getting home because we on a 7:30 curfew. So everybody should be given the land free,” she told Barbados TODAY.
Another resident, Oswald Jemmott, who has been living in White Hill for over five decades, was also of the opinion that the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) was up to “political tricks”.
“I can guarantee it’s election talk. I would like to ask minister Kellman in which year we will be relocated, when will it happen? I was in White Hill now for 52 years and the first few people got moved over 20 years ago.
“It took 20 years again to move three. I would like to know which year this move will happen,” he said, adding that it was likely that he would be the last one to leave White Hill.
Jemmott also suggested that the area should not be permanently condemned and that Government could have made another attempt at repairing the main road leading into the community instead of moving 22 homes, which he suggested was a more costly undertaking.
“You got over 100 families in this district . . . . I think it is cheaper to fix the road than to relocate so many people,” he stressed, while echoing Andrews’ call for the minister to visit the district and speak to the people about Government’s plans.
“He [Kellman] needs to come and talk to us about relocation,” Jemmott insisted.
Equally frustrated was Marcia Carrington, who happened to be travelling along the impassable main road when Barbados TODAY visited the area today.
Asked for her reaction to Government’s planned move, she said: “If it’s true we don’t have a problem relocating.”
However, she cautioned Government to “don’t get in the media and talk, come down here and help the people.
“I never see him [Kellman] down here yet. He knows about St Lucy, but he knows nothing about St Andrew,” she suggested.
“This relocating thing new to me [and] they say all the spots in Farmers gone. Where them gine put we? So I waiting to hear from Mr Kellman. Tell he come to the community. We need to see them,” she added.