Of plots and coups in Central Kingston


Sunday, September 09, 2018

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In a world where 34-year-old Facebook founder Mark Zuckergerg's net worth of US$73.1 billion is approximately four times Jamaica's 2017 GDP of US$14.77 billion, a Gleaner writer enthusiastically accommodates the desperate rantings of a very small clique determined to undermine the democratic process in Central Kingston.

In a clearly biased offering with no input from me, I am accused of plotting a 'coup' against Deacon Ronald Thwaites, a man whose 25-year tenure as Member of Parliament ends in 2021 and can only be shortened by Prime Minister Andrew Holness's election call.

The issue is specifically about the constitutionally due constituency conference which has not been held since 2015, a disgraceful anomaly which precedes my entrance in the constituency.

Let it be clear, there will be a conference in October 2018 where delegates will freely elect their officers, as was designed by Norman Manley and his team of democrats. There can be no intervening edicts or impositions, no blackmail, no Gods and men, only free choice of Comrades. That is the sacred trust which the party has sworn to uphold.

The test of good constituency representation is not about how many times you have been elected. Rather, it speaks, irrefutably, to whether or not you leave it a better place.

The errant Gleaner article negatively hints at my record as MP in West Rural St Andrew, a JLP-dominated enclave that I had to surmount 2,793 votes to prevail in 2016.

The facts show otherwise.

With over 147 publicly documented solid achievements in 50 months, I believe, conclusively, that my tenure passed that test of good governance.

The list of new achievements under my watch includes three bridges (Content, Hall's Green and George Mason Drive), two basic schools (Red Hills Primary and Parks Road Basic), two clinics (Padmore and Golden Spring), one dental facility (Red Hills), two highways (Florence Hill and Red Hills to Waugh Hill), the new Stony Hill water supply, and five information technology centres with HEART certification and stipends of $22,500 per month for 146 participants at Red Hills, Rock Hall, Stony Hill, Cavaliers and Oberlin, a feat not matched in the long history of parliamentary representation.

Most importantly, the blueprint was prepared and space leased at the old Red Hills Primary School to establish the first community software research and development centre when the 2016 elections intervened.

With the undebated, unkept JLP promises of the $18,000 rebate, a doubling of the minimum wage and 250,000 new jobs, my work was stopped by an electorate unwilling to take the hard but solid road to growth offered by Dr Peter Phillips at the Ministry of Finance. Surely, in a democracy the people have the right to be wrong.

But some of us continue to dance and are addicted to unsubstantial sideshows even as the music stopped. This is the story of our negative to marginal growth over the last five decades ending with our GDP at .02 per cent of the world economy. Instead of highlighting unfounded 'plots' and 'coups', Central Kingston should be designing a innercity test case for national growth. Apart from sports and a necessary urban renewal programme, an education revolution model should speak to information technology and software product development — at its core.

In many of my earlier writings, I have emphasised the need to harness the creativity, potential and exceptionalism of the Jamaican mind, surely to be found in our innercity communities where the mass of our population resides.

Former prototype communities like Central Kingston are teeming with talent, which a new PNP Administration will unleash, as Phillip Paulwell sought to promote in West Rural St Andrew. With forward thinking constituency leadership, the search for our Mark Zuckerberg should begin now. This must be backed up by a Community Reinvestment Act which will incentivise or mandate financial institutions to invest and make loans to red-lined areas from which they receive deposits.

Among other such initiative, this done, we will begin to see the exponential growth we have yearned for. This is the type of thinking beyond self interest group agendas, that will take Central Kingston and Jamaica to modernity.

Paul Buchanan is former Member of Parliament for St Andrew West Rural

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