Prime Minister Gaston Browne has commented on the widespread outrage that followed the Development Control Authority’s (DCA) decision last week to demolish a structure in Parham from which a group of young men were operating a business.
PM responds to outrage over DCA demolition in Parham
DCA reportedly took action to remove the illegal structure as the men were squating on publicly owned land and were expanding the structure after repeated warnings in writing, dating as far back as January 2021, against doing so.
Pointe Xpress has learned that permission had initially been given to a farmer to erect a tent from which he could sell his produce. However, a wooden structure was erected and, over time, in addition to the produce being sold the business grew to include the sale of cooked food and other goods.
According to Prime Minister Browne, while his administration is not insensitive to the plight of the poor and ambitious young people who are trying to earn a living, the laws of the land and the authority of public institutions charged with maintaining order across the country cannot be flouted.
“We are a nation of laws. The individual could not think that they have a right – a God given right – to squat on public lands [or] to set up shacks all around the country and to undermine the beauty of the country,” said Browne.
He continued, “I have seen documentation and information to the effect that DCA has been in constant dialogue with those individuals. They would have warned them about expanding the facility. They were given a temporary approval to have a 10×10 [foot[ facility. I’m told that they went and put down a permanent structure [and] continued to expand.”
Pointe Xpress has also learned that there had been complaints by residents near the demolished business, including one homeowner who made a formal report to the police, over concerns that, apart from the food and produce sales, other unsavoury business may have been conducted from the location.
Bowne also disabused the public of the notion that his Cabinet had any knowledge of the DCA’s intention to exercise its authority, in this instance, to address illegally constructed buildings.
“I have to tell you, this does not involve the Cabinet. Not even the minister (Maria Browne) presided over this, because there is always an assumption that when these actions are taken that it’s some minister that gave instructions and that is not the case.
“DCA has the authority to act independently. It is true sometimes as politicians, from time to time, we will intervene and ask them to, you know, to give the person a break…but in this particular case, this matter was not brought to our attention. DCA – based on the discussions that they would have had with these individuals, based on certain warnings and certain instructions that were given – they took it in their own judgement [that] there was a need to demolish this structure. It was ill suited based on certain activities that were taking place,” said the prime minister.
The prime minister also had a caution to others who may find themselves at odds with the DCA, saying the public must cooperate with the building authority.
“I want to make a point here to individuals who feel they can just squat indiscriminately throughout the country: you don’t have any such right and you need to cooperate with DCA.
“When DCA gives you a warning, you don’t continue to build. And what many of them do you know, when they’re putting up the structure initially and DCA would have gone to them, from the time they get the first notice, they accelerate the construction or expand the building!
I’m not saying that DCA cannot exercise some discretion, don’t get me wrong, [but] if not we’re gonna end up with a whole heap of palletised structures and structures that are gonna make the country an eyesore,” said PM Browne.