Principal turned politician


Principal turned politician

Yallahs High educator sets sight on St Thomas Western

Senior staff reporter

Monday, November 11, 2019

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PRINCIPAL of Yallahs High School in St Thomas Mark Malabver is set to enter representational politics after 19 years as an educator.

Malabver, in an exclusive interview with the Jamaica Observer North & East last Wednesday, disclosed that he is expected to represent the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) in the next parliamentary election, constitutionally due by 2021.

He is expected to contest the St Thomas Western seat, now represented in the Lower House by Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Member of Parliament James Robertson.

“I decided to enter representational politics for two basic reasons: Several persons in the constituency approached me to ask whether or not I had an interest. I initially turned down the offer but they were very persistent because they believe that I have what it takes to win the constituency and to offer quality leadership,” Malabver stated.

“Secondly, I have entered the political process primarily out of frustration. I believe that by and large, I have been somewhat disappointed in some of our leaders because of the fact that a few of them have not displayed a certain level of integrity that is required by the political process. I believe that good people should not stand aside and not get involved in the political process,” he added.

Labelled “the forgotten parish,” St Thomas has, for years, been characterised by underdevelopment. Complaints over the years from residents in the parish, located in the southeastern end of the island, have swelled and include a lack of job opportunities, poor infrastructure and little to no substantial investments.

The parish has, for more than a decade, been represented by both the JLP and PNP in both the western and eastern constituencies, respectively.

“Sitting in this chair I've become very frustrated because of lack of resources, not being able to turn the school around the way that I would want to. This is primarily because there is no support. I believe I can do a lot more for the schools within the constituency. I believe I can do a lot more for the people in the constituency. I am very encouraged by the fact that wherever I go in terms of my walks, most people would want to listen. People want to hear what my vision is. They have been crying out for quality leadership within the constituency. I have been sharing with them what my vision is,” the educator said.

While his decision to enter the political arena was met with resistance from some parents, whom he said believe the school will descend into chaos in his absence, Malabver claims his plans for the constituency will avert any likelihood of that.

“Some raked me over the coals for it because they would not want to see me leave the school but I really believe that I can do a lot more for the school. I believe I can do a lot more for the schools and constituency at a different level. Certainly, I've been campaigning on a particular vision. That vision includes employment opportunities. One of the things I certainly would want to do is to invite investments into the constituency,” the man who was recently appointed the junior spokesman on Water, Environment and Climate Change, said.

According to Malabver, he intends to explore the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector in creating these job opportunities.

“There's a road called Factory Road where several factories have been closed down. I want to convert those spaces into call centres. Once we're able to do that we can provide over a thousand jobs for young people in the constituency. Another important thing that I want to do is to have an adult education programme. This is where adults who have already left school and are out of the formal education system can come back to school in the afternoons at no cost to them and do CXC (Caribbean Examinations Council) subjects at no cost to them. It is my intention as the Member of Parliament to pay for at least one CXC subject per person that is enrolled in the programme,” he suggested.

Malabver told Observer North & East that he is also aiming to establish a scholarship fund for students at the tertiary level, noting, too, that efforts will be made to ensure that this is non-partisan, with the appointment of members from the business community sitting on the board. Those members will be expected to finance the fund. Malabver said whatever is raised will be matched by him as the supposed MP.

He is also hoping to initiate “literacy and numeracy programmes” within primary schools in the constituency.

“That is going to be critical to lifting the literacy and numeracy rate so that when they come to the high schools they are at a certain level in which you can now impart the curriculum on them, so it is something that I am very keen about,” he said.

He also pointed to agriculture, which he said will be critical in the development of the constituency.

“Gassan Azan, for example, is doing something out in Portmore — a multibillion dollar investment. I see no reason why that multibillion investment cannot happen in western St Thomas so that we can provide the linkages with the tourism sector, so that produce can move from the field to the plates of tourists. Certainly, I want to put a hub within the constituency where persons can come in, drop off the produce and then we distribute it in collaboration with hoteliers. In a week or two the farmers can collect their cheques,” the principal theorised, also noting that he expects to explore ecotourism as an income earner for residents.

Without going into details, he also mentioned that infrastructural development is among his plans for the constituency, stating that it will be a very important “plank” for his campaign.

Land acquisition, he also said, is a critical component of his plans for the area.

“Sport is also critical. One of the things that I want to do is to establish a multipurpose state-of-the-art sports complex within the constituency. Similar to Catherine Hall in Montego Bay, St Thomas is known to produce athletes but yet there is no infrastructure in place to nurture and to build on that talent. It is something that I certainly want to do,” he noted.

“St Thomas has a history of exploitation, depression and oppression. Not a lot of investment has taken place within St Thomas. I believe getting this change calls for representation. I believe it calls for vision. I believe that the time has come for a change in western St Thomas. I am very much aware that it will not be easy to defeat the incumbent and probably this will perhaps be the last constituency to be declared on the night because of the sheer numbers, but I am sufficiently confident that once I roll out my strategy I will be the Member of Parliament come election night,” he added.

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