St Catherine North Eastern electors threaten to withhold votes

St Catherine North Eastern electors threaten to withhold votes

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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FED up electors in St Catherine North Eastern are threatening to withhold their votes in the upcoming general election, a move they are hoping will spur political representatives into action to fulfil promises made to develop the constituency.

A date has not yet been announced for the parliamentary election constitutionally due by February 2021, but residents of Hampshire, Crawle, Riversdale, Mount Industry, Benbow, and Middlesex, among others, are making their intentions clear before Prime Minister Andrew Holness fires the starter's pistol.

“Water; wi having water problems,” Ruel McDonald said last Wednesday when the Jamaica Observer sought to ascertain the issues plaguing the constituency.

“That a di main crisis up here. Now and again yuh see one truck come give wi likkle water or when rain fall, wi get likkle. Wi nuh have nuh more problem up here but wi just bring wi mind to wi condition,” said McDonald.

It has been 28 years since water flowed through pipes in Hampshire, the community in which he resides.

The small farmer, who said he has been living in the constituency for approximately 45 years, declared that he was one of many apathetic electorates there.

McDonald said with no positive change in the constituency's status, it is very difficult to picture himself voting this time around.

“Mi nuh like hear 'bout election. Mi naah go vote again; mi stop now. Mi nuh like di situation weh a gwaan. Yuh nuh si no MP [Member of Parliament] till when time election a gwaan; only that time yuh si dem. Yuh naah see dem again. Yuh know how long wi nuh si dem? Right now a election time yu a go si dem a run come a sweet up. Mi nuh inna dem. Mek dem do weh dem a do,” he insisted, adding that he does not care who is elected.

The current parliamentary representative is the ruling Jamaica Labour Party's Leslie Campbell, who in 2016 sent People's National Party candidate and former Member of Parliament Phyllis Mitchell into retirement.

However, the Observer has learnt that Campbell, who defeated Mitchell by 122 votes to enter Parliament's Lower House, is expected to be replaced by JLP Senator Kerensia Morrison.

Campbell, an attorney, is not seeking re-election.

Business owner Joan Smith has been living in Benbow for approximately 16 years.

For her, the issues in the constituency go well beyond the absence of potable water and poor roads. There is little opportunity for employment.

“From mi come here a di same way mi see it. From mi come here — 'bout 2003 mi live here — a di same issues wi have all along. No road, no water [and] unemployment. We have too much idle land here. They need to give the people them title and sell out the land so that other people can come in the area and live. You know, people of substance; people who a teacher or lawyer because the area is nice. It's cool and nice but boy...,” the woman said as she paused to observe her surroundings.

Asked what she thought would spark change in the constituency, Smith said perhaps a change in leadership.

She believes that the PNP's Oswest Senior-Smith's path to Parliament could be through frustrated electors.

Senior-Smith, an attorney, is the PNP's caretaker in the constituency.

“Maybe a different Administration; like the people them vote fi a different party inna di area because all along mi come here a Labourite mi si. Mi nuh seh dem nuh do anything enuh, but I guess the area a one garrison — mi seh so. It's a garrison without zinc fence because yuh hold the people hostage. You need to do things let the people can live — mek people know 'bout cable, mek people know 'bout Internet, give people opportunity fi live and it worthwhile,” the businesswoman said.

“People nuh have nuh reason fi live here suh. Mi know a set of family, all of them go university and none of them don't live here; dem don't come back. Dem nuh have nothing fi come back to, enuh. You have to give people reasons to come back,” she stressed.

She told the Observer that she has very little interest in voting.

Stanley Wilson, a farmer from Guy's Hill, said he has lost count of the years the constituency has gone without water.

“Wi nuh have water, not even a wi yard. A years now mi nuh get a drink a water [from the pipe]. Suppose mi never build tank when mi come out here? Is 40 years now since mi come from abroad come to this. Dem nuh do nothing for the area; not a drop a water wi have suh mi not into the voting thing. Mi don't vote for them and I'm not voting,” said Wilson, who returned to the island after serving in the US military.

Statistics from the Electoral Office of Jamaica show that the JLP has won 11 of the 15 general elections held in the constituency since voting began in 1944. The PNP has won four.

Since that time, residents said there is little to show for their votes, from either party.

Hampshire resident Antoinette Martin was peeved when she spoke to the Observer about the challenges in the area. While noting that she is a staunch supporter of the JLP, she said this time around she has no interest in voting.

Martin, who is a business operator in the community, said she and a group of 40 electors will be withholding their votes until the promises made by political representatives are kept.

“Water and unemployment are the biggest things. Wi affi buy water fi $8,000 or $9,000, depending on the truck that comes. Then you have the young people them who not working. Mi have niece and nephew weh leave school and not doing anything. Most of them mi affi link up people a MoBay or Ochi fi them get work. An see it deh now, dem get it and di hotel dem not open suh yuh know how dat go. Dem affi a raise two chicken with di money weh dem have a save and sell. It's rough around here,” Martin explained.

Middlesex businessman Pete Anderson also pointed to water and poor roads as two of the major issues in St Catherine North Eastern.

“Politics dem play wid di distric' mek wi nuh have nuh water. White River start right outta Guy's Hill out deh suh and go straight a Ocho Rios; an' dem put in a eight-inch main from White River come back a Guy's Hill and only one time them ever turn it on. Shortly after it turn on, election run and PNP lose [and] it never turn on back,” Anderson claimed.

He said that, along with the lack of investments in the area have turned him off from voting.

“Mi used to vote but mi stop. Mi nuh see nuh reason fi vote. Mek who waah go inna power go inna power; wi affi try look after wi self. Nobody naah tek care a wi; nobody naah help wi. Anyting wi seh drop pon deaf ears. If yuh get up a do di same ting day in day out, wah di sense?” the man reasoned.

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