Government is moving swiftly to reverse some decisions made under the last political administration, which left over 500 urban residents without title to their houses and lands, Prime Minister Mia Mottley has promised.
During a spirited address at Golden Square in Bridgetown for this year’s annual Day of National Significance celebration, Mottley accused the Urban Development Commission (UDC) of swindling hundreds of working-class Barbadians out of their properties.
She explained that numerous people who purchased land at ten cents per square foot decades ago and consented to have their properties repaired by the state over the last five years were affected.
To their surprise, the owners were later informed they had forfeited their right to title and their houses were turned over to the state.
“What kind of Government treats poor people so unfairly at their most vulnerable state by saying ‘I am going to fix your house and then I am going to take it from you?’ That which you worked for and laboured for may not have been in the best condition because you did not have the money to fix it up. But now it would no longer be your legacy or the legacy of your children or grandchildren, but one of the properties that the state has taken,” she complained.
“It is as if the Government of Barbados were operating in another century… as if we had gone so far back in time that we forgot who we are and what we stand for and what we are about in this country. As if we had forgotten that there was a man called Clement Payne, and men called Errol Barrow or Grantley Adams or Hugh Springer or Frank Walcott.”
The upset Prime Minister promised to reveal further details in the coming days and declared government would be moving swiftly to make “wrong things right”.
“No Government I lead, or this party that was born out of the tribulations of this country will participate in the grabbing or stealing of property from people who have come to us at their most vulnerable and simply offered to assist and to give help to. And accordingly, once the period of time has passed, the lien which the UDC has on people’s property must be extinguished and the property must revert full and completely to the owner of that house which they went to help.”
The Prime Minister also frowned on the plight of almost 100 others, who had never received title to their properties under the same agreement and again blamed the UDC for failing to properly prioritise.
“We created an Urban Development Commission that was intended to empower and bring to people within the urban corridor the right to land ownership and house ownership, cognisant that the Moyne Commission spoke first and foremost about the housing conditions and the squalor within which people were forced to live in this country and that these circumstances led to the sense of total oppression and dissatisfaction that led to the riots in 1937.
“We understood that part and parcel of our duty is to complete the circle of enfranchisement, but that relationship to this society that roots every bajan more than any other, is ultimately the ownership of the land … where they sleep or cook, that land ought to become their own.
“This Government is now trying to make right this wrong with those 100 persons who have been waiting for years because the Urban Development Commission did not prioritise it as a matter to allow these people to get on with their lives,” said the Prime Minister.
During her speech, Mottley described urban spaces as the “forgotten child of our post independence development”, which needed urgent attention.
“You come through Bridgetown and Bridgetown feels like it is struggling to express itself again,” she said.
Mottley then thanked residents and businesses who opted to stay despite the challenges “because the soul of a nation is in the soul of its capital,” she added.