Transforming Landholders Into Landless Bahamians
At this stage of our National development, Bahamian workers need to be critically concerned about our land resources and how they are used in relation to national development. First, we need to be overly concerned about the use of the Quieting of Titles Act as a method of raping poor Bahamians of land they have had access to for centuries.
And secondly, there needs to be a critical examination of the extension of the Stafford Sands model of economic development which allows for the building of massive high rise hotels on each of our family islands coupled with a casino as instruments of development. All successive governments to date including the current one have used this model of development, instead of being creative in the areas of manufacturing, technology, agriculture and the development of our marine resources.
Workers must shudder when they think about the gleefulness of Prime Minister Perry Christie’s approach of signing the countless Heads of Agreement that signs away so many acres of land when the ink quickly dries on these agreements.
This government is prepared to sign away 870 acres of land in Rum Cay, and additional acreage in Crab Cay. In Bimini, there is the Bimini Bay development and the Bimini Bay Game Fighting Club by a Malaysian company.
In Abaco there is the Winding Bay development in Cherokee Sound and Island Fresh Dairy Ltd. In the Berry Islands there is the Prestine Resort, Chub Cay and Whale Cay development. In Cat Island there are several give aways of large acreage including the Hawk’s Nest and Orange Creek development.
In Eleuthera in the advance planning stages are two developments at Salsa Beach, plus at Half Sound, Winding Bay and Hatchet Bay. All of these the current administration could sign away at the “ bat of an eye”. In West Grand Bahama $2,150 acres of the old Sammons Bay are being considered and the beat goes on and on.
When our politicians announce these projects they tell us only about the thousands of jobs, but not about the transfer of land from Bahamian hands to foreign land grabbers and speculators. Indeed, with these transfers we are transforming the Bahamas, but more importantly transforming Bahamians from landholders to landless people.
I have noted before in this column that too much of our land is already in foreign hands. For example, the company of the late E.P. Taylor owns one tenth of New Providence, which he obtained under the UBP and has retained under the PLP.
The gamblers and the developers own Paradise Island, The Grand Bahama Port Authority controls 230 miles of Grand Bahama that has culminated in Freeport seeming like a foreign city. There is an American company called Columbus Landing, which reportedly controls 75% on the land on San Salvador.
It appears that a great many of the Berry Islands are foreign owned and the same is true of the Exuma Cays. The parties of the PLP and FNM/UBP have caused the best beaches and the best lands of the country to be in non-Bahamian hands with the result that most Bahamians will never own a piece of this good earth.
Additionally, all true Bahamian patriots are appalled by the provision of the Investment Incentive Bill (IIB) for its objectives are to promote the development of the Bahamas by granting the developers the right to control large acres of land, to levy duties and grant licenses. In fact, the concessions granted to developers under this bill virtually set up a state within a state.
The end result of these two pieces of legislation is the same: Bahamians will be robbed of their land. On one hand the IIB will result in Bahamian settlement being hemmed in or squeezed out by some foreign or local behemoth. And on the other hand, under the Quieting of Titles Act (QTA0 Bahamians have been robbed by the local land grabbers. In fact if I were Attorney General, Alfred Sears, I would rename these two pieces of legislation The Land Grabbers Act. The Quieting of Titles Act however, has cancerous effects on the land situation in the Bahamas.
This act, which came into effect on November 1, 1959, has turned out to be a nightmare –virtual scourge on the poor Bahamian worker who has been fortunate enough to become legally involved with it. For the local lawyers, however, this Act has been a boon – a bonanza for this already bloated profession. For the unscrupulous land grabber, it has produced the perfect situation for him to ply is trade and swindle the poor landowner.
This present lawyer dominated government is aware of the hardships the Act has inflicted on the Bahamian masses over the years, and the reasons why they have not attempted to rectify this unnecessary and unjust hardship are very strongly suspect. This unfortunate piece of legislation was introduced by the UBP exploiters and presented in the House of Assembly by Mr. Godfrey T. Kelly. The sated reason given for the Bill at that time was to enable persons who own generation property and other land, and who because historical reasons could not produce marketable title to be able to do so. Prior to this informal arrangements regarding land transactions were common.
The hardship caused by the inability to produce good title was most severely felt in the Family Islands, but is was also thought by the ruling class at that time that the impreciseness as to land ownership hampers economic development.
Although a few workers benefited form this Act it is primarily used up this day, by the ruling class and other criminals to rob the poor unsophisticated and unsuspecting owner of his land, and the Pindling, Ingraham and Christie governments has made no effort to correct the practice.
This Act allows fake landowners to petition to the courts for Certificates of Title accomplished by fraudulent affidavits and sworn statements. The petitioners on completion of the legal exercise are then granted land rightfully owned by others without the true owners knowing it, sometimes for years.
The court as institutions of the ruling class, are notorious for handing down decisions in land disputes in favor of the ruling class exploitators, the Higgs and Forbes land cases are glaring examples of this.
Legal transactions involving the Quieting Titles Act are lucrative and the Act is one of the bread and butter tools of the legal profession so to expect the average lawyers to protect the interest of the masses in this is like leaving the wolf to protect the sheep.
All the exploitaters like the owners of New Providence Development, the Grand Bahama Port Authority and Paradise Island etc. have benefited directly or indirectly from using this law. The Port Authority was so ruthless in its land grabbing that adjacent landowners in Grand Bahama had to take up the shotgun to protect their property.
The worker facing a battery of high-powered lawyers, exorbitant legal fees and legal institutions are in a hopeless no-win situation. In such confrontation the ruling class often sometimes winds up winning by default. As I have attempted to demonstrate so often in these columns the average Bahamian in this country will never get justice, will never have institutions functioning in their interest, until they the workers control the country government in the Bahamas. The land fraud phenomenon shows how well the institution functions to protect the monied class and those who are in power.
Charles Fawkes is President of the National Consumer Association, editor of the Headline News, The ConusumerGuard and the Workers Vanguard, Consumer columnist for the Nassau Guardian. He can be contacted at 326-6620 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org