Submitted by Heather Cole
The dictionary defines a squatter as an unlawful occupant of land or a building. Just this week in the Press there was a video of Mark Maloney refuting a suggestion that was made by Trevor Prescod that the persons who are squatting on Crown lands at the Belle should be allowed to occupy houses at the Villages of Coverley that are unoccupied. He made it clear that no squatter will be allowed at the Villages of Coverley. One can only assume that Mr. Prescod meant that since the houses are completed and listed as rent to own, that the government should purchase the houses for the people from the Belle.
One will recall that the DLP Government entered into a leasing agreement with Housing Concepts SRL – also owned and/or managed by the said Mark Maloney and Bjorn Bjerkham to build houses for Barbadians at the Coverley Development site. The terms of the lease agreement is $100.00 for 99 years. It was so low that it was labelled as pepper corn by another contributor to the Barbados Underground. In Thursday’s edition of Barbados Today, Mr. Maloney stated that prices of these houses range from $280,000.00 to $340,000.00.
Everyone is aware that it is unlawful to occupy land in the Belle since it is has implications for contaminating the water supply. Any agreement undertaken between the Government of Barbados and any entity is a legally binding document and therefore lawful. The agreement between the National Housing Corporation and Housing Concepts SRL was specifically for residential housing development. The Town and Country Planning department did not give permission for the construction of a gas station or the obstruction of the road reserve.
We are all aware of the fact that on two occasions Mr. Maloney has broken the agreement while occupying the land at the Villages of Coverley. In the first instance, it was the building of the Rubis gas station and the second was the obstruction of road reserve which resulted in the death of a young Barbadian student. The two infractions of the agreement are still in effect as government has been negligent in enforcing their removal. Since Mr. Maloney has broken the leasing agreement and to date no Auditor General’s Report has contained information about funds from Coverley, one cannot ensure that Mr. Maloney is making the payments per the lease agreement, we can all but wonder if he is lawfully occupying the 41 hectares of land while making super profits.
The property at Coverley does not belong to Mr. Maloney. It belongs to the Government and people of Barbados. No action has been taken against Mr. Maloney for building the Rubis gas station on public property. Cannot the same reasoning be applied that low income persons can occupy the houses which are on public property without action been taken against them? Can the people from the Belle occupy the houses and if the police are called to eject them, would a Minister call and prevent that action?
How wrong could Mr. Prescod have been to ask that the unoccupied houses be turned over to the squatters in the Belle? How right could Mr. Maloney have been to state that no squatters would be allowed at the Villages of Coverley? It make one wonder if there are inferior citizens in Barbados and that they can be prohibited from living in certain areas. Mr. Maloney seems to have forgotten that he signed a legally binding contract that allows government to purchase any houses that he is unable to sell. It makes one wonder why he even bothered to sign the contract when he had no intention of keeping it since he already broke it twice.
The bottom line is that Government must not enter into these adulterated sweetheart deals that are driven by corruption. It must also ensure that Barbadians are not disadvantaged and that they have access to housing in all developments. That is, that all developments must have a percentage of their housing stock set aside for low income earners even if at a price differential which is subsidized by government. We must discard the term low income housing as it perpetrates the stigma of classism and elitism in society. Mr. Maloney’s statements about not allowing persons from Belle to be relocated to the Villages of Coverley perpetrates the argument for two Barbados’ even though the people are brainwashed at election time into thinking that there is only one.