Jamaica to demolish illegal structures erected by gangs on agricultural lands

Authorities were on Thursday set to begin demolishing Illegal structures erected by criminal gangs in a community in the southeast of the island, marking a first for the country.

“This will be a watershed moment in Jamaica. It is not the first time the Government has moved to rectify illegal settlements, but it is the first time that an illegal settlement sponsored by a criminal gang will be treated with. I want this to be an example and a warning and a caution to Jamaicans,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The structures are on lands in the Greater Bernard Lodge Development Area adjoining the Clifton community in St. Catherine, which had been designated for agricultural purpose.

Prime Minister Holness said that the National Security Council, in reviewing the Greater Bernard Lodge Development Plan, observed an insidious and growing threat in the area where alleged gangsters were capturing lands adjoining the Clifton community “creating their own informal subdivision and selling these lands under the false pretence of ownership or building on them themselves”.

He noted that SCJ Holdings Limited, which owns the lands, has given warnings and served notices to individuals to cease and desist, but the capturing and illegal construction has continued to the point where some 30 structures have been identified.

“Aside from the technical and security issues it poses, all of Jamaica must acknowledge that this is just wrong. The Government of Jamaica, therefore, will make a stand and ensure that this does not continue,” he said.

Holness told the House that the Government will follow the requirements of the law and “we will ensure the safety and security of the members of the community that has been legitimately recognized for regularization. But we cannot allow this kind of audacious, brazen capture of the people’s lands”.

He said the security forces have been instructed to have a strong presence in the area to treat with any threats from any criminal element that may want to interrupt or exercise control or present any obstacle to the Government rectifying the situation.(CMC)

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