SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — By the second week of March, a multi-agency meeting should be held to map out a plan to ensure that crime-plagued areas of downtown Savanna-la-Mar will get the most out of social intervention initiatives planned to complement the zones of special operations (ZOSOs) put in place in early January.
During a recent tour of several communities in the area, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie lauded police and soldiers for the gains made under the ZOSO but stressed that the social aspects cannot be ignored.
“My visit this morning along with JSIF [Jamaica Social Investment Fund] and other support staff is to look at the next phase and that next phase is to now give a different look to the community,” said the minister.
Acknowledging that communities in downtown Savanna-la-Mar have been neglected for years, he assured residents that change will be coming soon.
“We're going to be meeting in a week or so with a multitask team to look at and to structure the programme for the community. Many [residents] said they have been waiting a long time, they have heard the same story before, [but] we have a different driver now at the wheels. We have a Government now that is committed to responding to the needs of the people. We are not here on a political mission, we are here to bring social renewal to the people of this part of Central Westmoreland,” McKenzie said during a February 25 visit.
“I want to ask [residents] to be patient because things cannot happen overnight. There is a process. But there are some low-hanging fruits that we will attend to immediately when we get the approval, like getting the National Solid Waste [Management] to come in. We passed some areas [that] residents use… as a dump heap; we are going to deal with that,” he added.
“The Government will be responding in a meaningful and positive way to ensure that the peace and stability and the improvement of the social and living conditions of this community are upgraded. It is going to take some time, but we are starting now and that start will definitely bring some results,” he promised.
McKenzie said based on what he has seen in other areas, he is confident that the planned social reforms will benefit Savanna-la-Mar.
“The ZOSO is in about five areas, including in my constituency, and you can see the improvements — [and] not just in the physical structure. Apart from coming to maintain law and order, dislocating criminals, and returning sanity to the community, social intervention is the way to go,” he stressed.
JSIF's senior manager for social development, Mona Sue-Ho, said the tour provided vital information that will be useful in determining next steps.
“It has been a good tour and it has given us information to guide our planning going forward. It is going to be a multi-agency approach… and of course the needs will certainly require a number of agencies to all participate in a joint plan. The meeting will take place within the next seven working days, then we will define our priorities and… move forward,” said Sue-Ho.