St Mary South Eastern a rough ride, says Dunn

Sunday, October 28, 2018

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Ask Dr Norman Dunn if there has been a general improvement in the lives of the people of St Mary South Eastern, and he would give a resounding 'Yes' for an answer.

Tuesday, October 30 will mark one year since the career pharmacist and businessman, representing the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), triumphed by 937 votes over medical practitioner, the People's National Party's (PNP) Dr Shane Alexis, in the by-election to fill the vacancy ushered in by the sudden death of then Member of Parliament Dr Winston Green in August 2017.

Dr Dunn polled 8,176 votes to Dr Alexis's 7,239.

The incumbent listed, in positive tone, a series of accomplishments that he has ticked off in one year, some of which, he said, others before him had not achieved in the almost 50 years of the constituency's existence.

But the mission to make Jamaica's fourth-largest constituency, geographically, a showpiece of the wider nation of 2.8 million inhabitants, has been one bruising trek for the first-time parliamentarian, who has pledged to serve the people of that section of the traditional agriculture-based parish for as long as they want him to.

“It has been a very rough ride,” Dr Dunn confessed in an interview with the Jamaica Observer last week. “But the accomplishments have been heartwarming. People have been asking me where I was all this time.

“I'm here to stay; not forever, but I will be with the people for as long as they want me. After a year I have sewn the seeds for a much longer life. So far the people have seen me as their son in whom they are well pleased,” Dr Dunn stated.

It was an election in which claims and counterclaims of heavy spending by the parties took up headline space, with both diluting assertions that they had deep pockets. Dr Dunn insists that the PNP outdid the JLP in campaign spend, something that officials of the Opposition would find laughable. But, with a stern face, Dr Dunn remained adamant: “I was not privy to how much was spent on my campaign, as it was run directly from party headquarters, but the PNP spent far more than us. They seemed to have had so much resources. The many cook shops that they had convinced me even more,” Dr Dunn said.

The MP, in outlining some of what has been done so far, put the construction of the bridge at Chesterfield, near Castleton Gardens, as one of the projects that had been progressing according to plan. The bridge was promised to the people by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who flung his shoes aside and undertook a watery baptism of the small village in crossing a section of the Wag Water River to attract their votes and hear their concerns, during the height of the campaign. Political observers believe that that incident of Holness, appearing to some to walk on water, swung the fortunes into the corner of the JLP.

Among the other projects that the MP cited as solid achievements are the improvement in the water supply from Gibbs Hill to Maroon Town (Scott's Hall) in the Castleton division, which he said residents had not seen in over 40 years. Better water supply, too, has reached the communities of Leinster, Tinsbury, Comfort Valley, Rock River, and an upgrade in capacity of the National Water Commission plant at Iterboreale, what with the construction of a new well that is now able to supply communities in Portland too.

Road improvement in Gibbs Hill, Gibraltar Housing Scheme in Annotto Bay, two farm roads at Egypt Pen in the Belfield Division, one at Belfield Pen, Fort George, Baxter's Mountain, pothole patching along the Junction Road, and improvement along the roadway from Highgate to Richmond are also on the list.

In addition, repair to the playing field at Westmoreland Oval, which adjoins the parish's most labour-intensive institution — the Annotto Bay Hospital — is ongoing. Dr Dunn sees the upgrading of the facility to one that has seating accommodation, a commentator's box, floodlights for night football and cricket as some of the things that are planned for the next phase of a complex that has seen several millions of dollars pumped into it by various political administrations over the years.

“Performance is at the core of what I do ... performance over promise,” Dr Dunn interjected.

He also cited work at the Broadgate school, and the earmarking of the Broadgate Community Centre as a future CAP site, partnering with the HEART Trust/NTA for skills training in plumbing, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, among other areas, with a special emphasis on bringing the skill of women to the forefront.

Targeting women, Dr Dunn said, had formed the basis of three job fairs held so far in the last year, with another set for this week.

“Sometimes MPs don't get to do the things in four years that we have been able to do in just one year,” Dr Dunn argued. “The by-election was a real plus in that it gave Jamaica a glimpse of South East St Mary and the Herculean task that is required to improve it.

“There are projects upcoming for the Richmond, Castleton, Belfield and Annotto Bay divisions. The Richmond Community Centre is being upgraded; the people of Enfield now have a stable, more reliable electricity source. I'm trying to get Wi-Fi hotspot for Annotto Bay,” he went on.

Dr Dunn also revealed a plan to mount a sign at the entrance to Annotto Bay from the St Andrew end which would read: 'Annotto Bay, A Town of Talent', in recognition of some of the people who have emerged from the community who have served as an inspiration to others. Some of the people include singer Beres Hammond, Clerk of the Houses of Parliament Heather Cooke, and former head of the Planning Institute of Jamaica Dr Wesley Hughes.

“A fountain has been put back in the town and we have got quite a bit of credit for it,” he said. Also, in the area of beautification, we want to upgrade Castleton Gardens as a family venue, a bed and breakfast facility with a new bathroom and two new gazebos.

“We are working towards having a paved vending area and a major contractor, Dwight's Construction, has committed to upgrade that surface which is not now in the best condition. Our long-term vision is for the mountain that is behind the vending area to be removed and create a brand new rest stop with a large parking area for tour buses with a water park in the garden to make Castleton Gardens more to offer than just flora and fauna. We can also have wedding receptions and graduations in the park.”

The MP said that he also wants to twin Castleton Gardens with Scott's Hall to create a Maroon village.

“This is more of a passion than politics, and wanting where we come from fi stay good,” he said.

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