McKenzie flays PNP-controlled Westmoreland council
SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — As the country awaits the date of the municipal level polls, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie on Wednesday bashed the Opposition-controlled Westmoreland Municipal Corporation (WMC) for blocking the Jamaica Labour Party-led Government’s efforts to improve conditions in the parish.
It is an issue he has alluded to in the past as he squared off with councillors who, he said, had failed to do their duty to clear lands needed for a fruit and vegetable market in Negril.
Wednesday’s comments came during a tour of Savanna-la-Mar market which has itself been a source of contention in the past.
“On looking at it, a lot more needs to be done. Again, I can’t say I’m surprised because since 2016 we’ve gotten pushback from Westmoreland in executing the policies of the Government to improve the conditions here in the parish,” McKenzie huffed.
All but five of the 14 divisions in the WMC are represented by councillors elected on a People’s National Party ticket.
“I visited this market some two years ago, and I did an extensive tour of the facility,” the minister said of the venue, which he thinks has the potential to be one of the top five markets in the country.
According to McKenzie, two years ago he asked for and was provided with an estimate that showed it would take more than $70 million to address vendors’ concerns about the state of the market’s floor and roof. He said $19 million was allocated for the first phase of work to be done.
According to McKenzie, he was advised that the first phase had been completed, but he was far from impressed when he visited the market on Wednesday.
“This is not fit for anybody to come in and sell,” McKenzie said as he pointed to the cracked flooring.
The minister stressed that he supports the WMC’s efforts to get vendors now contributing to congestion on the streets to ply their wares inside the market as part of a wider thrust to restore law and order. However, he was equally adamant that the local authority has a duty to complete the market it wants vendors to utilise.
“They have a greater responsibility in completing the work for the market to be fully renovated,” McKenzie reasoned.
During his visit, vendors appealed to him to intervene in the municipal corporation’s directive that they must vend from the market by the end of this month.
Some complained that the facility has several shortcomings, including being prone to flooding whenever it rains, customers’ reluctance to patronise vendors who sell inside, and inadequate security.
“The market needs clean up to fix up the right way. Wi nah come in here, and if wi fi pack up and come in here, nothing nah sell in here,” Sonia, who said she has been a vendor for the past 10 years, told the Jamaica Observer.