The Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has given the strongest indication yet that it plans to move the people of White Hill, St Andrew, and it was willing to get involved in a battle over land in St James in order to achieve this.
The party’s chairman and Member of Parliament for St Andrew George Payne gave more than just a passing hint today when he warned that a BLP government would forcibly reacquire commercial lands in Lancaster, St James that had been sold to “friends” of the governing Democratic Labour Party (DLP) by the current administration, to relocate White Hill residents.
“I am going to warn all of those persons from the Democratic Labour Party now who are acquiring lands around Chefette. Those lands we are going to be reacquired and they will go back to the rightful owners. We acquired those lands for the people of White Hill and people who have been affected by land slippage and those lands will go to those persons,” Payne declared in the presence of Opposition Leader Mia Mottley, during a walkthrough of the community, which has been impacted by extensive land slippage, water shortages and an impassable main road that was condemned by the authorities following heavy rains in November 2014.
Residents have repeatedly complained about the state of affairs in the rural community, and planned a protest march today, three years and a day after heavy rains triggered the land slippage that resulted in the road being condemned.
There have been conflicting reports about plans to relocate the residents, with Government and the community, which strongly supports the BLP, pointing accusing fingers at each other.
A recent announcement in a press release issued by the Barbados Government Information Service that the Ministry of Housing would continue the relocation process that began in 1999 by transferring 22 houses to Farmers, St Thomas, and constructing five new houses this financial year and another seven in 2018, was met with derision by residents.
“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 [and] we all know that,” community spokeswoman Carlitha Andrews said.
The charge of election gimmickry has been denied by Minister of Housing Denis Kellman.
In March of this year Payne had taken exception to Government’s decision to allow a fast-food chain Chefette to set up shop at Lancaster, St James, complaining at the time the decision was one of the worst taken by the Freundel Stuart administration because the land had been earmarked for the relocation of residents of White Hill.
The BLP chairman further stated today that a previous BLP administration had been forced to correct misuse of land by a DLP administration, and there would be no hesitation to do so again.
“I remember when I was Minister of Housing you had a situation where an acting general manager of housing had done the same thing in Orange Hill under a Democratic Labour Party Government. When we came to office we reacquired that land. So let that be a warning,” Payne said.