Govt recruits lawyers to fight shanty town action

THE government has hired a team of high-powered lawyers to fight the legal action meant to stop the Minnis administration's eradication of shanty towns, Attorney General Carl Bethel said.

The legal team is led by Harvey Tynes, QC, to assume carriage of the judicial review action against the government. Robert Adams, from Graham Thompson in Grand Bahama, is also on the team.

"The government views this challenge with the utmost seriousness and I want to assure the Bahamian people that the government intends to meet this challenge in a vigorous, timely and appropriate manner, towards which end we have appointed and retained a team of expert attorneys who are particularly experienced in the judicial review matters and constitutional matters before our courts," Mr Bethel told the Senate.

The Supreme Court previously ordered the government and utility providers to halt any planned service disconnections or evictions in shanty towns pending a judicial review of the Minnis administration's policy to eradicate those communities.

Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Grant-Thompson granted the interlocutory injunction blocking evictions and service disconnections just days ahead of the government's August 10 deadline during a telephone conference with human rights attorney Fred Smith, QC, and Mr Bethel on Saturday.

Leave for judicial review - filed on behalf of 177 shanty town residents from both New Providence and Abaco, and non-profit group Respect Our Homes Ltd (ROHL) - was granted on Friday.

A date for trial has not yet been determined.

Despite the injunction, the government is pushing ahead with surveys of shanty towns in the Family Islands.

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes told reporters on Tuesday the injunction only applies to the shanty towns in New Providence, adding task forces on Family Islands are either being established or already underway.

The Shanty Town Action Task Force yesterday conducted a survey of the Farm Road shanty town in Treasure Cay, Abaco.

Mr Foulkes told The Tribune the task force's survey of the island was 90 percent complete, and identified Eleuthera as its next stop.

Mr Foulkes said yesterday: "Eleuthera has 11 shanty towns, most of them are very small but there is one big one on Russell Island, next to Spanish Wells. And then, there is a medium-sized one in Andros at the San Andros airport.

"So those are the remaining ones, we are in the process of establishing subcommittees of the task force in Eleuthera and Andros. We should have those completed by the first week in September."