Letters to the Editor

Don't shaft Portmore again

Friday, September 07, 2012    

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Dear Editor,

The latest mega-project for Portmore is the Port Authority's Fort Augusta Container Terminal. To facilitate this all the women prisoners are to be moved by year-end.

This project, which is similar to the millennium Highway 2000 Portmore leg, will have serious implications for the Portmore community. With construction soon to be initiated, there has been no meeting with the community. In fact, we are not the only ones not being given details of the project, as the Office of the Contractor General is having similar problems.

The project is being made possible through a piece of infrastructure that is (was) very important to the Portmore community. The original causeway bridge is now out of use, but was being preserved by the government through the Port Authority of Jamaica. As a community we believe that we have been given the short end of the stick, and our interests were pushed aside by a government that should have been protecting our interest.

During the construction of the Portmore leg of Highway 2000, while the community was lobbying for a suitable alternative, the government of the day, backed by our political representatives, proffered reasons why the causeway bridge could not be retained as our alternative route out of Portmore. We were told that the integrity of the bridge was questionable and continued use would be dangerous. When the community was not satisfied with that information, the matter was pursued legally, but the government's position was strengthened.

In the Supreme Court, Claim Number HCV 1085 of 2005, our arguments were overruled (section 22a) on the grounds that from an environmental standpoint the existing causeway bridge had to be demolished because, if both were maintained, there would be an increase in sedimentation in the area around the bridges which were in the path of the outlets for Hunts Bay. This would result in flooding on the Mandela Highway and in surrounding communities. Following the court's ruling, the then minister of transport and works said the bridge would be taken down in 2006. To date, this ruling of the Supreme Court has not been effected.

In the Supreme Court, Claim Number HCV 1085 of 2005, our arguments were overruled (section 22a) on the grounds that from an environmental standpoint the existing causeway bridge had to be demolished because, if both were maintained, there would be an increase in sedimentation in the area around the bridges which were in the path of the outlets for Hunts Bay. This would result in flooding on the Mandela Highway and in surrounding communities. Following the court's ruling, the then minister of transport and works said the bridge would be taken down in 2006. To date, this ruling of the Supreme Court has not been effected.

At a meeting with the minister in June 2006 and a delegation from the Portmore community, I asked if the old causeway bridge was up for sale and the answer was in the negative. Further checks with the only entity that would have the resources to effect such a purchase, the Port Authority of Jamaica, confirmed that they had an interest. The old causeway bridge would provide a very important connection between the two terminals.

A high-ranking official said then that if the government decided to sell the bridge then the Port Authority would declare its interest. That interest, I would think, has been expressed. The only losers are the residents of Portmore who are left with a flood-prone "alternative" and an un-affordable toll charge.

The government now must reveal to the residents of Portmore and by extension the nation the following:

* On what terms and condition was the old causeway bridge sold to the Port Authority?

* How much was the bridge sold for and where are the proceeds?

* Is there any intention to remit any proceeds of this transaction to the Portmore Municipality to assist in the rehabilitation of our road infrastructure?

* When will the community be consulted and informed about the projects?

Our government, backed by our political representatives, must ensure that this time the Portmore community is not again shafted.

Howard Hamilton

Chairman

Greater Portmore Joint Council

how_hamil@yahoo.com

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