Structures illegally erected on lands adjoining the Clifton community in St. Catherine, which have been captured by criminal gangs, started being demolished today, Thursday (Oct.6).
Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the disclosure while providing an update on the Bernard Lodge Development Plan in the House of Representatives on October 5.
“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,” he said.
“By tomorrow morning, (today) action will begin to clear those structures,” he declared.
The lands, which are in the Greater Bernard Lodge Development Area, have been designated for agricultural purposes.
Prime Minister Holness said that the National Security Council, in reviewing the 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 pretense 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.
Mr. 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 recognised for regularisation. But we cannot allow this kind of audacious, brazen capture of the people’s lands.”
Mr. Holness said that 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.
“So, the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) has deployed a forward-operating base metres away from this area. They are doing regular patrols and have created a security blanket including regular surveillance, drone surveillance and other forms of surveillance to see whether or not there will be any movement by criminals in those areas,” the Prime Minister said.
He noted that while the Government will act to demolish those structures that have been illegally erected “where we see extenuating circumstances… we will engage a process to deal with the structures that are complete and occupied but to be clear, they will not be allowed to stand.”
Meanwhile, he said the process of regularisation for residents of Clifton has commenced and is ongoing with many informal settlers given letters of possession.
SCJ Holdings Limited already has more than 350 registered titles in its possession for lots in the Clifton community and these will shortly be distributed to the new landowners.
The Prime Minister assured that the Government is committed to upgrading the road network in the community and provide residents with access to proper water supply, and connection to a central sewage system that is now under construction.
A police post is to be established in the development area, which will also provide added security for community members.
The Greater Bernard Lodge Development Plan will create an integrated community of 5400 acres of land of which 3027 acres are dedicated to agriculture.
The remainder is designated for housing, light industrial and commercial activities, social services, open and recreational spaces and an urban centre.