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‘Hands off church land’ diocese tells govt: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 2, 2011 September 6, 2011

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of the West Indies.
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Nuttall Memorial Hospital

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Diocese of Jamaica has denounced state plans to amend the country’s eminent domain laws to allow the government to confiscate private property for commercial redevelopment.

On 19 August the Suffragan Bishop of Montego Bay, the Rt Rev Howard Gregory released a statement on behalf of the Diocese defending the private property rights of citizens in the face of government encroachment. His remarks followed comments made by the head of the state’s Urban Development Corporation (UDC), Ms Joy Douglas, that the UDC was interested in redeveloping the site of the church-owned Nuttall Memorial Hospital in Kingston for commercial uses.

“The right of individuals and institutions to own property is guaranteed by the Constitution” of Jamaica, the Bishop said, and “is protected against any form of compulsory acquisition without certain conditions being satisfied.

“Landownership has been of far more than symbolic value to our people in the history of this country, and for the Government of our nation, the largest landowner, to be proposing changing the laws which have guaranteed the right of citizens and institutions, in order to confiscate property, supposedly for the purpose of redevelopment, is not only unacceptable but in violation of our Constitution,” the Bishop said.

The Diocese was also perturbed by Ms Douglas’ statements that the UDC did not have the funds in hand to pay for land it wanted to acquire. Government “land grabbing” paid for by “some piece of paper which a future generation may be able to cash” was “unacceptable” Bishop Gregory said.

“The direction in which these things are pointing marks a major departure from our current practise and understanding of the rights of citizens, and must not be allowed to proceed without serious debate and engagement by the people of this nation,” the Bishop said.

The UDC responded that government had a “core charge” to “see to the development and redevelopment of urban areas and to address conditions of urban blight.”

However, in the case of the Nuttall Memorial Hospital grounds the Diocese’s concerns were misplaced. The UDC “has not at this time formulated any concept with respect to any specific use of that area in emerging development plans.”