Heroes' Park development and citizens' welfare

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, October 29, 2018

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The controversy around the proposed parliament building took me back to a conversation with former Governor General Sir Florizel Glasspole, of blessed memory. He recalled that when, as minister of education, he created the new Ministry of Education building at Heroes' Circle, there was wide criticism of it being “Glasspole's Glass House”. “That building ended up saving Jamaica millions,” he noted.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness offered a similar case at last week's town hall meeting held at National Heroes' Park. The plan for the 52-acre park, being overseen by Urban Development Corporation (UDC), will include the new Houses of Parliament and offices for 14 government ministries, which should save the Government $2.4 billion in rental. Holness is quoted in the Jamaica Observer: “It is the public's building, because it will be within a park, and there is no intention whatsoever to close off this area from the surrounding communities.”

Town hall meetings are healthy for Jamaica's democracy. Our leaders are at the mercy of the general public, as we noted from the boos for Member of Parliament Ronald Thwaites' quite balanced contribution to the discussion.

The plan also includes improved housing for the communities in the 300-acre area surrounding Heroes' Circle: Allman Town, Campbell Town, Woodford Park and Fletcher's Land.

If we want Jamaica to keep pace with our changing world we have to give development a chance, even as we look out for the well-being of our citizens. I recall the consternation of some Jamaicans when Digicel's Chairman Denis O'Brien decided to build his regional headquarters on the Kingston waterfront. As the building went up, so did real estate prices in downtown Kingston. Through the Digicel Foundation, philanthropist O'Brien also ploughed millions into the renovation of Coronation Market, Tivoli Gardens High and St Michael's Primary.

At Torrington, on the other side of Heroes' Park, Rainforest Seafoods has set up a world-class manufacturing facility served by their own well water. This benefits the surrounding communities, as the company has installed convenient plumbing used by residents as far away as Allman Town to collect free water — a relief in times of drought and water lock-offs. They have refurbished the Iris Gelly Primary School canteen and contribute significantly to the school-feeding programme.

GraceKennedy has remained true to its original location on Harbour Street, and its new headquarters is going up rapidly. Let me share GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby's story on the unfolding of these plans. The building was put to tender and a Chinese company won the bid. He then asked the Chinese if they would engage the many unemployed young people in the community and offer them on-the-job training. This was done, and reports are that the young people have been so dedicated that several have qualified for City & Guild certification. This is how we can go the extra mile to give our talented youth a chance to change their lives.

I would like to recommend Don Wehby's approach to the UDC. We know that business is business and that a Chinese company may very well win the Heroes' Park tender, but it opens new opportunities for our talented and ambitious people.


Listening to Grandma Maureen's tearful story, I can understand the urgent call of Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton for compassionate care in our health services.

Residing in Little London, Westmoreland, Grandma Maureen (not her real name) is the sole caregiver for her 21-year-old granddaughter, Tracy, whose spinal cord was punctured by accident in a procedure when she was about 10 years old. Tracy is a quadriplegic who cannot sit and so must be carried around by her grandmother.

Tracy has many aches and pains which worsened a few weeks ago; Grandma Maureen took her to the Savanna-la-Mar Hospital and, as they sat waiting, they were attacked by a man of unsound mind. When he approached them, Grandma Maureen, immobilized with Tracy on her lap, called out for help but was ignored. The man kicked at Tracey, and as the grandmother shielded her, he kicked the senior citizen in her face, giving her a nosebleed. It was only when he ran at a security guard that he was subdued.

As if that were not enough, when they finally saw the doctor, he told her that Tracy “did not look as if she was in pain” and sent her away without any treatment.

We met Grandma Maureen at mass at Mary Gate of Heaven Church, where their caring pastor, Father Jim Bok, has been assisting the family. When she told me she was heading to University Hospital in Kingston, as a last resort, the next day, I became so fearful for them that I asked her permission to post their photograph on social media to appeal for smooth service when she got to Kingston.

There was an outpouring of sympathy and I suspect that compassionate Dr Khia Josina Duncan may have been responsible for getting the information to her colleagues. I am told they got quick, good service at the hospital and that the medication had eased Tracy's pain.

Dr Tufton also offered his ministry's help to get Tracy a wheelchair. We will be in touch with them, as this has to be modified since she cannot sit up. The family wants to be self-reliant and we are trying to organise a chicken coop for them to adavnce that goal. As for her legal rights, we are going to link Grandma Maureen to the public defender's office to see if they can be compensated for this tragic mistake which may have sent Tracy's mother to an early grave.


The Alpha Sisters of Mercy organisation has saved many of our young men from a life of crime and abuse, and so I salute Sister Mary Susan Fraser on her 70th Birthday. She has been the administrator and developer of the St John Bosco Boys' Home in Hatfield, Manchester, for over 30 years. The home has become a bonafide farming, catering and meat-processing entity, thanks to Sister Sue's vision. The graduates of their meat-processing and catering divisions have gained employment in retail and hospitality organisations. Now they have opened The Falls at Bosco restaurant on weekends, earning rave reviews.

Former Government Senator and Member of Parliament Princess Lawes has been making a big difference for underprivileged children as chairman of the Jamaica Chapter of the Educational Foundation for Children's Care Inc (EFCCI). Her organisation has established the Alta Vista Village in Four Paths, Clarendon, and is currently expanding the project which will provide more family-type accommodation for the children. The model calls for a mother and father for units of four to six children, ensuring that they receive parental attention.

These are the initiatives by dedicated volunteers that will prevent the emergence of the cold-blooded monsters who have brought pain and heartbreak to thousands of families. Let us support the valiant efforts of these individuals and organisations — the only way to ensure lasting peace for Jamaica.



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