Current Affairs

Current Affairs



'The land is yours'
Housing minister assures PRIDE beneficiaries about tenure
Observer Reporter
Saturday, May 11, 2002



BUCHANAN... in some cases beneficiaries have additional documents, such as survey plans and letters of undertakings from "approved lawyers" and this gives them strong legal footing.

MONTEGO BAY -- Housing minister Donald Buchanan on Thursday reassured beneficiaries of the problem-plagued Operation PRIDE shelter programme, that should there be a change of government they would still have a legal right to the land they have obtained.

At the same time he promised that within another six months, he would add another 22,000 certificates of possession to the 8,000 already distributed through the project under the two former housing ministers, Easton Douglas and Karl Blythe.

The recently appointed minister, who replaced Blythe after a scandal rocked the National Housing Development Corporation (NHDC), also stressed that regardless of which minister was head of the housing ministry, Prime Minister P J Patterson is the driving force behind Operation PRIDE.

"Let us at no time mistake who is the driving force behind this project, whether Easton Douglas, Karl Blythe, Danny Buchanan or whoever is the assigned minister, the man who is behind it is P J Patterson. He is the man who wants the people of Jamaica to have their land," Buchanan said.

In the wake of the NHDC scandal, beneficiaries have expressed concern that the PRIDE project might grind to a halt and they would lose their chance to regularise their housing status. There have also been concerns raised that if the Jamaica Labour Party, which was instrumental in exposing irregularities at the NHDC wins the next election, beneficiaries who received land under the current government might lose their benefits.

But while he conceded, Thursday, that the ultimate security of tenure is an authentic land title, the housing minister argued that the certificates of possession being handed out were legal documents that would stand up in any court in the land.

"The essence of that process is that the lands that are being conveyed to you in the certificate of possession, is at the same time being transferred to you from the government to the lot owner by virtue of the powers that rest in the minister of housing as a corporation sole, to transfer lands to the people," he told the gathering at the La Mirage Hotel in Montego Bay.

The group represented more than 30 provident societies from across the western end of the island.

"So any government and any person who hereafter tries to reverse that, he or she or whichever government, will only be able to do so if they can convince the court that the court must disobey the established statute and law of Jamaica," Buchanan said.

His statements were a direct response to concerns raised by the Provident Society umbrella group, Comand. Among an eight-point list of concerns, Comand head and People's National Party activist, Dave Allen, asked the minister to guarantee that the land would remain in the hands of PRIDE beneficiaries despite any "poor public sector management, political manoeuverings or change in administration".

According to the housing minister, in some cases beneficiaries have additional documents, such as survey plans and letters of undertakings from "approved lawyers" and this gives them strong legal footing.

He did not say, however, how many titles have actually been distributed to beneficiaries of Operation PRIDE and other ministry personnel at the meeting were unable to give that information.

During his address, minister Buchanan stressed that he would be "moving swiftly" to complete infrastructural work already started on PRIDE sites across the island but cautioned that it was unlikely that any new projects would be started because of financial constraints.

He added that by May 20, he should be able to take to Cabinet the names of three more appointees to the recently replaced NHDC board. Among these members will be a representative from among the island's provident societies.