Another issue that has been in the media has again caught my attention, this time it is that of a highway project supposedly intended for destination Portland. Now it is said from reports without being too detailed that this highway was to be stretched from Harbour View in St. Andrew via St. Thomas to Port Antonio, Portland. Preliminary testings and plans were supposedly done for construction of the south coast leg of project ‘Highway Fever Tek Over Jamaica‘ to start late 2016 early 2017 but then suddenly there were reports of changes being made. Finance Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw initially announced that highway focus would shift from the East to a more favoured parish in the west which is that of St. James for economical benefits to the country.
Now of course disappointed and disgruntled citizens of the Republic of Surrey would take to social media to express themselves in the only way they know how. Also standing in solidarity with the online protesters are ‘social workers‘ from across Jamaica and it’s diaspora desperate to be the next headline story. Firstly everyone who knows me in person, otherwise or has ever read my blogs knows how unopinionated I am, I usually wait until everyone has made their comments and feel satisfied before I take to the floor to voice my opinion backed by feasible reasoning.
I am more than happy about the collective concerns of Surrey Republic, the withdrawal of plans for what could be a groundbreaking development for the region. Up until the start of Thursday June 16, 2016 there was no formal explanation given for this negligent move which made the uneasy residents livid. However by the end of the day, the hungry people were fed, the prime minister of Jamaica Hon. Andrew Holness made a press release with regards to the abandonment of the south coast leg of ‘Highway fever tek over Jamaica‘. Mr. Holness task was simple and straightforward: to protect the interest of his competent cabinet members and he stood and delivered. In his statement he made what seemed to be clarifications to confusion acquired through ‘talebearing‘ journalism. Mr. Holness made it explicitly clear that the government had no intentions of putting the project on hold or excluding St. Thomas from its highway glory. He reassured the people that the project have been ‘re-scoped‘ to maximize benefits that will suit the fiscal constraints that the country bears. In an audio release posted on the Jamaica Labour Party Facebook page Mr. Shaw promised realignment and reconstruction of roads throughout St. Thomas as it is more economically viable than to spend US$500 million which was the projected cost to be spent on building a toll road from Harbour View to Morant Bay.
Now that the people are full and satisfied with the lip service they have received from Mr. Jacket and Tie it is time for me to shed some light on the potential misleading. The Gleaner published an article on Friday June 17, 2016 titled ‘St. Thomas Relief- Holness Declares Highway Still Coming To Parish In Southeast‘ this heading in itself is a clear misleading and misrepresentation of what was said by Mr. Holness and his crew. St. Thomas will not get an highway according to the Prime Minister’s audiovisual report, the re-scoped plan sees the highway running from Harbour View to Bull Bay which borders both St. Andrew and St. Thomas. This kind of titling sets up further friction between the people and the government representatives in the future, for when the people’s expectations are not met then they becomes displeased. Another key thing to note is the evidence of a political ball game being played with St. Thomas once more as Mrs. Juliet Holness, wife of our Prime Minister, first lady of Jamaica and Member of Parliament for St. Andrew East Rural which covers a large area of the community of Bull Bay will be a beneficiary of the planned highway road that is expected to run through her constituency. Being an avid user of the roads in St. Thomas I can attest to the deplorable road conditions that is no secret, once you have either traveled to the parish or through it for whatever reason, there is one thing that stands out most: the road or the lack thereof. St. Thomas may have some of the worst main roads in the country and still after years of lay back protesting nothing major has been done to change its state of condition. This leads me to my next point, St. Thomas real problem: REPRESENTATION. St. Thomas has a core disease, one which persons hardly see due to the cloak that has been placed over eyes by empty promises and lies. The representatives have been lackluster and absent with their lobbying on the people’s behalf which accounts for the ‘forgottenness‘ of this parish.
Now my personal view on the highway saga is: St. Thomas does not need a highway. The truth is the parish is a relatively big one, 742.2 km² with population of approximately 94,410 people. A great deal of this population of people are commuters to outside parishes each day, these people can testify for themselves of the strain it puts on them to travel the routes St. Thomas to Kingston or Portland each day. I honestly believe that a new wisely constructed thoroughfare would alleviate tremendous amount of pressure from the back and pockets of the people but a highway is not a necessity: note the difference between a highway and a thoroughfare. The prime minister as well as his financial assistant made mentions of the money it would and will cost to build roads in the parish of St. Thomas and either way tax payers will have to account for what is spent but in terms of what is most feasible for the country’s economy, the most recent revision is best in my opinion. I am St. Thomas born and raised and I want what is best for my parish but I more so want what is best for my country, if St. Thomas is to be spoiled now to compensate for decades of neglect it would profit us nothing and as such I stand to defend the move of withdrawing a highway from the parish but strongly encourage the present government administration to not fall through with their plans to realign roadways and improve drainage systems which is important for road maintenance.
I implore the residents of St. Thomas to step away from the noise for a bit and analyze the situation with wide open eyes, there is a lot more good in the long term plan than immediate bad.