War of words over roads in St James West Central

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

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A war of words has erupted across the political divide in St James West Central, with Government Member of Parliament Marlene Malahoo Forte yesterday accusing affiliates of the People's National Party (PNP) of inciting protests over poor road conditions across several divisions in the constituency.

The MP yesterday stressed that she had credible information that individuals who are instigating the roadblocks are associated with the Opposition PNP.

She singled out Councillor for the Mount Salem Division Kerry Thomas as being behind roadblocks in the community of Tucker, and said she was calling on the councillor to “stop his mischief”.

“It has come to my attention that some people are paying individuals to block the roads. I got a call from [a] resident in Tucker this morning, telling me that they are catching the 'road-blocking fever'… he's not the MP, so he has time to be in the constituency today when Parliament sits. From what is being reported to me, along with voice clips of his voice — if he is truly interested in the welfare of the people, the way he is going about it is not the right way,” Malahoo Forte said.

But Thomas, in a Jamaica Observer interview, shrugged off the claims, dismissing them as “propaganda and hearsay from the Member of Parliament”, and pointed out that the roads are in dire need of repairs and must be fixed.

He pointed out that the Tucker main road serves a number of communities such as Maroon Town into John's Hall, as well as the Retirement dump, and two quarries in the area. He said, too, that the widespread protests, which began in Maroon Hall and continued to Tucker, could not have been his doing.

“Shame on her to even go down that road,” he stated.

“What we should find out is why contractors came on that road and the MP moved them, saying it was the incorrect road… She, as attorney general, I expect much better from, because she has been in Tucker, she has heard the people speak about the road, she has promised them more than once to repair the road,” he continued.

Malahoo Forte said work had begun on the Tucker main road, but that “a problem occurred with the contractor”, and she has since asked for a full report into the matter.

She insisted yesterday that she has been making representation on behalf of the residents and that major roadwork is being carried out across all three divisions: Granville, Spring Gardens and Mount Salem.

“They cannot all be done overnight. Blocking the road is not the way to get my attention. My constituents know how to find me. I have been present and I have been working,” she said.

There have also been widespread protests over the state of roads in the eastern parish of St Thomas, with the police yesterday advising motorists to avoid all main thoroughfares. Weeks of heavy rain have wreaked havoc on the island's road network, making areas where the surfaces were already in poor condition even more treacherous.

Earlier this year, the local government ministry had to pick up a hefty tab of $2.2 billion after three periods of severe rains which scoured roads and hillsides, causing landslides and blockages, and washing away critical bridges. The agricultural sector also sustained $520 million worth of damage.




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