North & East

Living in limbo

Garvey birthplace occupants not clear on Government's next move after compulsory acquisition

Observer staff reporter

Monday, January 21, 2019

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SEVERAL months after the Government announced that it had executed the compulsory acquisition of the boyhood home of National Hero Marcus Garvey in St Ann's Bay, one occupant says her family is still in the dark about the move.

Jacinth Johnson, in an interview with the Jamaica Observer North & East last Wednesday, said that nothing has been communicated to the occupants of the Market Street property, some of whom have lived there for more than 50 years.

“When Government a go come talk to wi? Wi just want to know when. Wi want to know if a this year, next year or the other year coming. No one has communicated anything to us. Mi nuh hear nothing about what dem doing,” Johnson said.

Minister of Culture Olivia “Babsy” Grange, in her address at the annual United Negro Improvement Association Marcus Garvey Awards last August, said that the compulsory acquisition “clears the way for the establishment of the proposed living history museum in honour of the national hero”.

Compulsory acquisition is the power of Government to acquire private rights in land without the willing consent of its owner or the occupant in order to benefit society. This power is often necessary for social and economic development and the protection of the natural environment.

The property, located at 32 Market Street in St Ann, has long been earmarked as the site for the Garvey Museum. Former Prime Minister Bruce Golding broke ground for the construction of the museum in 2011.

Grange had said that in keeping with the commitment given by the former prime minister to assist the occupants to find alternative accommodations, the Government will be taking action to relocate them to a property that has been identified.

However, Johnson said nothing has been put on the table since the Government last offered occupants $3.2 million to relocate.

“Mi anxious because mi need fi leave now. Wi have other things to do. It a stop wi business. Wi want to move suh that wi can get on wid wi life. Me especially want to get myself settled and know where mi putting mi head in peace. Wi in limbo right now and think 'bout it, if you don't know what dem doing, you would be comfortable? You wouldn't be,” said Johnson.

She had mentioned in an earlier interview that the property belonged to her grandmother and was later passed down to her mother who was born there. She had also said that her family did not know at that time that the property, for which they hold the title, is Garvey's birthplace.

Grange, in her address, had said that she was working closely with Member of Parliament Shahine Robinson and the Housing Agency of Jamaica to finalise the relocation.

“We are showing goodwill and I anticipate full co-operation as we move ahead with establishing this important national monument,” Grange said then.

She had also said that the Jamaica National Heritage Trust was instructed to “move swiftly to take possession of the property, acquire all outstanding approvals, and to begin construction before the end of the year”.

Construction has not yet started, though the technical designs are said to be completed and funding sourced for the construction of the museum.

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