Patria-Kaye Aarons | When MP means missing person
On Sunday, Andre Wright of the Gleaner wrote an article titled 'Samuda's land grabbers'. It was filled with so many painful truths that needed to be said. Truths about politicians, the garrison communities they are in charge of, and how they have no drive to better the lives of the people that reside there.
Truths about why men and women represent the same communities for decades as MP and can't show evidence of how they have improved the area beyond the way they inherited it. And truths about how none can produce the plan they have developed for transformation of these communities. No plan. Little action.
Bottom line, those politicians don't serve the people. The people serve them. The tightly packed garrison communities and political strongholds only serve to make up numbers when election time comes. The people stay unemployed (and available to campaign at midday); they stay poor (and eternally grateful for sporadic handouts); they stay undereducated (and willing to vote for a politician who over and over does nothing to improve their condition); and they stay desperate (and susceptible to the lure of drugs, guns, and crime).
The fight at 85 Red Hills Road should never have been "we want to stay on squatter lands". It should be "We want to be legitimised and own our own land. And we want our politicians to facilitate the environment to stimulate jobs and the means for us to acquire them".
Informal settlements are a real and ignored problem. Garrison communities and the people who live there shoulder much of the blame for Jamaica's crime. True, not everyone living in them is a criminal. In fact, the vast majority are not. But the very structure of a community that the police cannot enter spells trouble. The labyrinth of haphazard corridors and impenetrable forts is a recipe for illegal activity to brew in the shroud of secrecy. And safe behind the fridge-blocked entrances, there are criminals who plot. Criminals who plot and then execute with the expediency we wish our politicians did.
2008 GOVERNMENT REPORT
A dusty 2008 government-commissioned report is sitting on a shelf somewhere at the Ministry of Housing. It identified 754 settlements across the island. Seven hundred and fifty-four - housing an estimated one-fifth of Jamaica's population. In 2007, 66 per cent of those settlements had existed for more than 20 years. How has solving this been nobody's priority? How can we have 754 zinc communities in a country and feel as if there's no problem, mon? How can one-fifth of the country be kotching somewhere, with no plumbing, unsanitary garbage disposal and unstable houses and you feel, as MP, that you have done your job?
If at all we are serious about tackling Jamaica's biggest monster, the political aspirations of those who lead have to take a major turn. It can't just be about winning the seat. There is work to be done. Their return to power must be based not on mindless numbers, but on performance.
The prime minister made a promise of job descriptions and targets for his members. Actions they were to be assessed on by him and the public. I have yet to see them. How are the members of Government being assessed? No longer is it OK to say this is a problem I inherited. The measure of your success will be how many of those inherited problems you have fixed.
Any politician who read Mr Wright's article on Sunday should take a long hard look at himself. You collect a salary from this country every month to do a job. Are you doing that job? And the people who voted you in must take a long hard look at you and ask, "Am I being served?" If the answer to either is no, action must be taken.
I've said it before and it will forever be my belief: If only MPs were made to live in the mess of a constituency they oversaw, oh, how different things would be.