I must start by expressing my empathy and sadness for those residents of the Pigeon Pea who lost their homes and everything they have on this earth, and especially for the family and friends of those two lives lost during the New Year’s Eve Fire. It’s a tragedy plain and simple.
I don’t have to write and pretend that there is some great love local Abaconians foster in their heart for our Haitian migrants. Over the years we have developed a… complicated dynamic, at best. But tragic events like the fire have a way of shaking off the dust of bitterness and antagonism. At least for a short while.
And in these moments we don’t complicate boundaries, like where the Pigeon Pea and Mudd end and where Marsh Harbour begins. We look across the divide a see our own humanity. The outpouring of support from every area of Abaco to help those displaced and grieving is beautiful.
The same sources of this support, in a lot of cases I have seen, also happen to be some of the biggest critics of the situation that has brewed in our home-grown shanty towns. And with good reason. I overheard someone with the Fire Department describe the fire as pretty close to worst case scenario for Abaco. The shanty towns are constructed in such a way that prevents any mobility of rescue crews and allows fire to jump rapidly. It’s because they build, and are somehow allowed to build, without the safety and construction guidelines Bahamians are supposed to follow.
A tragedy that would be greater than the recent fire would be allowing that area to rebuild as before.
I say that not to belittle their plight of poverty, which is a very real and unjust cycle, but because allowing reconstruction will lead to the same results. I will echo what our Deputy Prime Minister said about refraining from rebuilding would be “helping themselves.” Mr. Davis has stated that a Ministry of Works official will be stationed on the ground here to ensure that no construction resumes.
I hope the Ministry of Works is as good at preventing construction in the Pigeon Pea as they are at preventing construction at the new terminal.