Community Focus: Residents battle for land ownership
The homes and livelihoods of dozens of Jamaicans living in the coastal community of Little Bay in Westmoreland are under serious threat because of a heated land dispute.
WESTERN STAR recently visited the quiet seaside district, where the people were up in arms about the possibility of losing their properties, noting that it will not be an easy fight for those who are claiming ownership.
Homes, restaurants, villas, bars, craft shops and fishing villages can be found throughout the community that is heavily dependent on tourism.
According to residents, their livelihood is being threatened by a foreigner, who is now claiming ownership of more than 800 acres of land, including those on the seafront that they have been occupying for decades.
"We can't get to do as how we would want to do because we are not the owners of where we are, and we are getting treats from those claiming to be owners that we need to move," said Jess Beach.
"She (foreigner) is putting fear in us, and because of that, we are afraid that we are going to lose the years of investment in this community."
The people explained that they banded together and tried to get possession of the land through the court.
If that was granted, the residents would have been given the go ahead to acquire valid titles for their share of the land, as long as certain common-law requirements were met.
They, however, lost that battle.
"I still pay taxes for my place even though I don't own the place. So, me want the opportunity to buy the property, so I can finish develop mi place and run mi little guest house. We are all entrepreneurs here," she added.
Others, such as 54-year-old Patrick Campbell, who claims he has been living on his share of the land since he was a boy, noted that he, too, has been paying property tax for decades.
"I am willing to buy the land. I have my house up there where I work all my life to build. I cannot afford to lose it. I rather die than to lose everything I work for," he said.
Another man, James Drummond, said: "When me come here so, a did pure rock stone. Me and me girlfriend have to walk and pick up rock stone, buy marl and top soil. So, we don't think it is fair that after all that work, they just come in a reap the benefits."
There, however, may be a silver lining for some of the people in Long Bay, who outlined that the Government is proposing to purchase sections of the land for resale.
"The Government is claiming that they are going to buy up to 60 acre and do it in sections. Some persons will benefit from this while others may have to relocate," said Beach.