By Jeff Trotman
Region Ten’s Chairman, Sharma Solomon, is concerned about how housing development is being handled at Amelia’s Ward and how land is being distributed between Bamia and Amelia’s Ward on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway.
He candidly expressed his concerns at a community development meeting for residents and land owners of Phases Two and Three Amelia’s Ward, Sawmill/Industrial Area, Obama Drive and South Amelia’s Ward on Wednesday, 21st May. Almost 150 people attended the meeting, which was held opposite the Amelia’s Ward Police Outpost to discuss issues related to telephone and water services, crime and security, provisions for the community in the national 2014 budget, infrastructure and the formation of policing groups.
Regional and municipal councillors, representatives from the relevant utility services and the police also attended the meeting to answer questions in the highly interactive meeting, which began at 5.00 P.M and lasted for over three hours.
Solomon said that he is very disturbed with the attitude of the Lands and Surveys Department and more so, the Central Housing and Planning Authority because the two new housing development schemes at Amelia’s Ward have not been handed over to the town council. He said the roads in the schemes have deteriorated and the Region Ten Democratic Council has written to the Minister of Housing to send an engineer to talk to the residents “and to date, we have not seen a representative from Central Housing and Planning”.
Stating that he does not have any knowledge about the roads in the two housing schemes, the Regional Chairman said: “Imagine that. So, I can’t even report to you, our constituents about roads that can’t even stand up. The Ministry is not even providing us with the scope of works.”
He then advised the residents of Phase Three to carefully monitor the road works that are being done because the minister or some official from the government should inform them on the expected type and quality of work since it is not the contractor who should speak to them about the scope of works because the contractor is simply the worker while “the ministry, the employer … must say what they are going to do with your tax dollars”.
Solomon said the Region’s administration does not have the kind of control over land that Linden citizens would like but through an agreement signed between the Region and the government on the 21 August 2012, a Regional Land Selection Committee should have been established to address land issues within the Region.
Stressing that squatting is illegal, Solomon said: “We cannot make legal what is illegal …. But I’ve never said you cannot live. We don’t control the land. We’re trying to ensure that you give us that responsibility …. I am fed up every time I am dealing with people, who paid ten years ago for their house lot and can’t get their transport or their title. What is that? Now, how do we deal with that? That is what we’re here to do. We need to fix that. Many of you are young and ambitious and need to live. And you have the opportunity to do so. So, why are you not being allowed? We have to find that out and fix it. For those, who want land and you have been applying for years and there is a piece available, the Chairman ain’t going tell you tek it. But hear what I tell you, Chairman ain’t gon stop you from taking it ….”
Referring to a similar meeting that was held the previous day for residents of Blueberry Hill and surrounding areas at Wismar, Solomon said: “We sat with the people opposite Roger Hinds Gas Station. We’re working with people at the back of Phase Three, Wisroc …. We’re working with people on Blueberry Hill .. and you know what we have said to them? Organize yourselves.”
He said when people organize themselves, they can work to structure the areas that they live in as was done when a land surveyor was contracted by the people, who are occupying lands opposite Roger Hinds gas station. “The people spend $10,000 a man (to) pay a surveyor. The roads have been completed. In fact, the people get somebody to put laterite and made the roads. I am saying to you, if you wait on somebody for ten, fifteen years to structure your life, you don’t want to live.
We’re not saying the responsibility is solely with you. We are here to help you. What we can do let us know.”
Reiterating that the Region will work with residents to find solutions to land and infrastructural problems they encounter, Solomon said he does not like the idea of people paying for their land and not knowing when they would receive titles, or other problems such as “when they go to inspect the land sometimes they are not finding the land”.
He said Region Ten residents must understand that before the Region establishes a Land Selection Committee, the Region’s Council is registering concern that it is not satisfied with what is happening and it is prepared not only to take the concerns of residents but it would like to have their involvement and support when the Region decides to take action in relation to the concerns “because when we do surveys and we say this is the land you can get, we hope you are prepared to do that”.
He said people have requested to own portions of land that borders the highway between Amelia’s Ward and Bamia to engage in business ventures and they have not received any formal response. Yet, they see other people from outside the community being given portions of those lands.
He said that he had a meeting with a group of businessmen last December and he has asked them to put the system to a test “because if others could come and get these lands, we can get these lands, too”. According to him, the lands are there to be occupied by people and the residents of Linden and Region Ten are people. He said local businessmen are prepared to collectively invest $500M in that area right now. “All they want is the land. But we are seeing a lot of people come and get these lands.” Solomon added that the Region has begun to organize the business people and he would have another meeting with them in a few weeks’ time to discuss how they could occupy those lands.