Despair for Portland

Friday, November 02, 2018

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Dear Editor,

Four years ago when I took up residence in Portland, I saw it as piece of paradise and a paradise of peace. Major crimes, such as murder, rape and shootings, were almost non-existent. I used to take my mornings exercise from Passley Gardens to Snow Hill at 4:00 in the mornings and I never felt afraid or fearful of being attacked. Now, I start my morning exercise when day starts to light up because I have realised that the Portland I came to know in 2014, is not the Portland of today. A callous spirit that is uncharacteristic of the Portland people four years ago has taken root in the parish.

Drive in a bus, take a taxi, stand at a corner, visit the town centre after school, or just walk along the streets and invariably you will see the origins of the violent and vulgar subculture that is rapidly taking over Portland. You can't come out of a bank, supermarket, or ATM without being harassed by professional beggars. Taxis that are licensed to carry five passengers are transporting up to 25 children in one trip and every corner has four or five young men digging out their 'hand middle' and “holding order”. Young 14- and 15-year-old schoolgirls have to sit in a boys lap and subject themselves to the tune of derogatory and sexually charged lyrics, if she wants to reach home or go to school on time.

I hate to think that the culture of silence — turning a blind eye and minding your own business — is becoming the way of life for the Portland people. In quiet moments, I searched for answers and I despair because it seems to me that the Portlanders of goodwill have lost the fighting spirit of their foreparents and they have given up the practice that builds a sense of family and community belonging.

Where is the outrage and cry for help from our civic, business, religious and political leaders? Where is the outrage from the ordinary citizen and the man on the street?

If Portland is to return to its true status as a piece of paradise and a paradise of peace, the people of goodwill must shut out the people of ill will. We must start by breaking our silence and express outrage at the way we are socialising our children. We must work with the police and tell them what we know. We must demand that our children are not treated like slaves on the transatlantic slave trade whenever they take a taxi or a bus. It is a tribute to decency, law and order that we cannot afford not to pay.

Andre Wellington

Passley Gardens District

Port Antonio, Portland

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