Editorial

Poor governance on show at Port Royal

Monday, April 14, 2014    

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COUNCILLOR Lorraine Dobson says she is "aware" that there is "a growing migration problem, in terms of squatting" in historic, world-famous Port Royal.

Further, she is aware of the links between squatting, such as has been taking place in Port Royal, and crime/social delinquency.

Note her words: "If you have these people coming, then other things will follow."

So we are left with no choice but to ask why Ms Dobson, the elected local representative of the people of Port Royal, has done nothing about the problem. We suspect Ms Dobson may well have inherited it, but that is not an excuse.

As we understand it, permits for the construction of buildings, including those that now make up the squatter communities in Port Royal, should come from the planning department of the local authority — the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) of which Ms Dobson is a part. That's the law.

After the first few structures went up, the KSAC should have acted to put a stop to those illegal buildings. Further, the squatters would have been building on land which does not belong to them — also against the law.

To compound matters, the squatters are endangering the mangroves and other vegetation which help to protect Port Royal; the Palisadoes strip, which includes the Norman Manley International Airport; and the Kingston Harbour, from storm and sea surges.

In light of all of the above, Ms Dobson, through the KSAC, as well as Member of Parliament Mr Phillip Paulwell, the police, the environmental authorities, and all other relevant agencies, should have been doing whatever they had to do to draw a line against squatting in Port Royal.

That the problem has been allowed to fester and grow to the point where we are told almost a quarter of the Port Royal population live in squatter communities, points to the kind of poor governance that is endemic in Jamaica.

Perhaps no aspect of Jamaican life typifies poor governance as does squatting. Anxious not to lose potential votes, elected politicians would rather turn a blind eye when the first few illegal structures go up. Responsible agencies, afraid of their own shadow, also act blind and deaf.

Pretty soon the problem becomes a wide open sore — out of control.

It is an approach to governance which has sullied the good name of Jamaica's democracy.

Ms Dobson is correct when she says the people of Port Royal must also take responsibility for having harboured squatters. However, she needs to recognise that as the elected representative of the people, she and all others in leadership positions must take first responsibility.

This is Port Royal, for God's sake! If the society is going to sit by and allow squatting in such a place, then where will it ever be stopped?

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