Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley today appealed to Government to ensure it has its finances in order when compulsorily acquiring property so landowners are not left waiting long periods for money due to them.
He made the plea as he contributed to debate in the House of Assembly on a resolution to compulsory acquire land at Gemswick, St Philip which is occupied by squatters.
Atherley said it was incumbent upon Government, to not leave landowners in limbo for extended periods of time, as has been the case in the past.
“The stories of them have been myriad, as to how Government has taken excessively long periods of time to compensate people relative to acquisition of their properties,” he said, noting that some of these matters have had to be settled in the courts.
“As a legal person, Mr Speaker [Arthur Holder], I am sure you are well aware of these happenings. An action is taken in the interest of John Public, the courts make their rulings, action should ensue in the interest of those who are complaining, compensation should be made, and years roll by and compensation is not given.
“[The] Minister of Housing must see it as his responsibility to persuade his colleagues in [the Ministry of Finance] that the decisions of the court must be respected, and the rights of citizens must be highly regarded,” Atherley added.
Speaking specifically about the resolution before the House, he said he hoped the move to acquire the lands in question was not guided by foreign influences.
“I do not think that a Government of this quality should leave it to an instance where pressures from outside, regarding requirements for international standards being applied at your airport facility, should be the thing that drives you to action. It can be that everything we do, we do simply because the international regulatory framework is such that if we don’t, we suffer some detriment or penalty as a result of that,” the Opposition Leader said.
He also insisted that although squatting is illegal, the Mia Mottley-led administration must pay closer attention to the reasons behind the widespread practice.
“I have said before, and I will say it again, I think squatting is not simply a manifestation of recklessness and disregard for law. It may be in some instances, but squatting is also a manifestation of a sense of dispossession and a sense of disenfranchisement by people who feel they can do no better and are left to this cause because the Government is not in a position, for various reasons, to facilitate our aspirations, our hopes for owning our own property, of building a house [or] of constructing a dwelling. So, [they] feel that they must do something to take care of [their] families,” Atherley said.