PM faces Port Royal heat

PM faces Port Royal heat

Holness assures residents they'll have a voice in historic town's development

Observer staff reporter

Sunday, January 12, 2020

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness went to Port Royal yesterday and sought to soothe the anger of residents who have been very vocal in their opposition to being relocated as development of a cruise ship terminal continues apace in the historic town.

With construction shifting into high gear to accommodate the first cruise ship call on the new floating pier on January 20, the dissatisfaction of residents reached fever pitch as Holness toured the community.

The prime minister, accompanied by Daryl Vaz, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, was met with complaints about poor housing and rising sea levels evidenced by water that had gathered along the Port Royal main road as well as in sections of the community.

“Too much a wi live inna one house!” one woman lamented as a crowd gathered in the square, where row houses built by the Port Royal Brotherhood more than half a century ago were being rehabilitated.

“You know from when dem house yah want fix? Dem wait till tourist a come fi come fix up di place,” said Ann-Marie Chamberlain, who did not hide her apprehension about the planned relocation.

The mother of nine, who lives on the beach from where some 20 families are slated to be relocated, told the Jamaica Observer that she will not be moving until she can be reassured of a place to live inside the community.

“Mi live here from mi a pickney, and mi not moving, because I don't know anywhere else. This is my home where I feel safe to raise my children,” said Chamberlain.

Holness, though, was quick to dispel the notion that residents would be permanently relocated from the community.

“There is a presumption that the Government is doing something evil, but I have come with an open mind to hear what you have to say. Nothing is going to be done without talking to you. We will not change the character of Port Royal,” Holness told the residents, indicating that proper housing solutions in the historic community would be the ultimate solution.

“The challenge with Port Royal is that, because we have not paid much attention it has been settled in a disorderly manner. We are going to do some reorganisation to find the best location to relocate people,” he said.

“The development of this place cannot happen without you. There is a symbiosis between developing the place and you, the people. In this process of development it has to be changed. We can't promise that we are going to give you housing until we secure the area to protect it from sea level rise,” said Holness.

This, he said, would require an overhauling of community infrastructure to safeguard against climate-related disasters.

“This is about developing the entire community, and it will happen in phases, the first of which is to protect the artefacts and secure the area from sea-level rise. This town deserves attention, and housing needs to be addressed. But we have to develop Port Royal by putting in the infrastructure to prevent flooding,” the prime minister explained.

Meanwhile, other residents who spoke with the Sunday Observer said that they welcomed the development of their home town, citing years of receiving empty promises from successive governments.

“From ever since mi a hear say dem a go develop Port Royal, so I have no problem with the development that is happening,” said Jacqueline Clayton, who operates a shop in the square.

Jahmawne McLaren, told the Sunday Observer that, while he was happy to see the development, the Government should ensure that the community will benefit.

“I have nothing against the development, but it should include the people and their development. Over the years I haven't seen any Government really put any of their promises in motion, so it is good to see this actually coming through,” said the young man.

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