Prime Minister, Andrew Holness toured sections of Bernard Lodge, St Catherine on Friday and spoke with several residents whose houses were demolished in an exercise to remove illegal structures from property held by the Sugar Company of Jamaica.
During the visit to the area, some residents refuted the Prime Minister’s announcement in Parliament Wednesday that gangsters had been selling the lands under the pretext of ownership, or building on them.
“When we examined the situation, we only acted when we were certain that certain steps were taken. So we had the evidence of the posting of stop orders,” Holness said before he was interrupted by a resident, who exclaimed, “That’s a lie!”
The Prime Minister maintained that the Sugar Company of Jamaica (SCJ) Holdings, which holds the land, had posted stop orders “twice”. He added that he was informed the SCJ had been “trying to find people who were doing the structures that were incomplete [but] nobody would come forward”.
Again, the resident disputed that account.
Noting that the government is sympathetic to their plight, Mr. Holness urged residents to engage in discussions with SCJ Holdings.
“Your government is not unsympathetic to the situation facing residents in Clifton, St. Catherine. However, we must pursue our development plans in a structured, orderly and legal way,” said Holness.
We are committed to regularizing informal communities islandwide to ensure citizens can live comfortably and safely with access to the necessary road infrastructure, amenities and utilities.
Demolition crews knocked down about 10 structures on Thursday. The exercise has since been halted.
The lands in question are managed by SCJ Holdings and have been earmarked for agricultural purposes.