PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller announced that Jamaica's old capital, Spanish Town, will be given a facelift that will include the improvement of its market, roads and business community.
She said she would mandate the St Catherine Parish Council to work with the police to address traffic congestion in the town, to improve conditions in the Spanish Town market and to work with the business community and other stakeholders to repaint sections of the historic town.
"We are going to look a Spanish Town in a serious way. It should be developed as a model town," the prime minister said on Wednesday evening.
She was speaking at the first in a series of town meetings organised by the Social Development Commission across the island at the Jose Marti Technical High School in Spanish Town.
Simpson Miller noted that the Linstead market in the parish was already being upgraded and would include the installation of proper bathroom facilities. She said markets were an important part of Jamaica's history and had helped to put many outstanding professionals though university.
"Our women and men cannot go to the market from Thursday, not going home until Saturday and they have no shower," she said.
Simpson Miller, who had kept a large gathering waiting for more than two hours before her arrival, emphasised the importance of political representatives, including herself, meeting with the public.
Lashing out against the series of rapes plaguing the country in recent weeks, she urged community members to work with the police to reduce crime and to facilitate development.
She said the country's laws were being reviewed including the use of DNA evidence to arrest sex offenders.
"The minister of justice is working hard, looking at all legislation having to do with abuse of our children in this country, abuse of our women, and if men are abused I am concerned and will deal with it," she said.
The prime minister also called on Jamaicans to protect the children in their communities, just as how she was protected by residents while growing up in the rural district of Wood Hall in St Catherine.
"You think anybody could touch Mass Zeddy children or Miss Minna pickney dem? Everybody, even the older ones, would be looking out for us. We need to return to the days when we gave true meaning to the African proverb 'it takes a village to raise a child'," she said.
The prime minister also commented on what she said were the unusual "reality checks" being made on her activities.
"People are even calling to ask what I eat when I travel. I've never heard it being asked of another prime minister in Jamaica. But I'm not offended by it. When they look at my size, they can know that I don't eat a lot," she quipped.
Simpson Miller — supported by several cabinet ministers, junior ministers, members of Parliament, and councillors — fielded dozens questions from members of the audience on subjects such as crime, unemployment, garbage collection, roads, water, and street lights.
The Government team promised to address a number of the concerns.