Wed | Jan 16, 2019

Mark Wignall | Port Royal - history on pause, wasting away

Published:Sunday | January 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM

After living with his eldest daughter in the quiet and green hills of St Catherine for too many years, Alfred, as I shall call him, returned to his old home in Port Royal.

"I come back here in late 2012," said the old-timer. "The fire station did not have the regular engine it used to have many years ago." Last Monday, after Chupski and I delightfully demolished two dishes of steamed and fried fish, I observed while taking pictures that there was no fire truck behind the two tall steel doors at the front of the holding area.

"We have a situation where a team of workers at the station come in at one shift. Who have cars park it in the area where the fire engine used to be. After they have 'worked' on that shift, another comes in to replace them. That goes on forever, and, I really don't want anyone to lose them work, especially if the system allows them to keep a job without actually being in a position to effectively carry out their duties."

Sewage runs untreated into the harbour and in a block of housing built post-Hurricane Charlie in 1951 and close to where we just dined, Gloria's at High Street, in the mornings the householders are forced to carry out their urine-filled chamber pots, known here as chimmys, down the stairs that are literally physically attached to the sidewalk and the narrow street.


Very demeaning


"That is very demeaning because the toilet block is downstairs and anyone passing by on the road at that time is seeing the people them private business,'" said Alfred.

"If history is to be resuscitated here, one main area that cannot be left out is the town," said Alfred. "If you come here almost at any time of the day, the town looks deserted. Even if a man drawing some herb, he is inside doing it. Not many of us hang out on the street."

"So what do people do for work?" I asked.

Alfred told me that most of those in Port Royal who had meaningful jobs worked in the capital, Kingston. "Who earn a living here is like fisherman, one and two get a break by the coastguard and at the airport and a few employed at Gloria's.

"If the planners really want to recapture the history of Port Royal, the people living in the town will have to be relocated. After that," said Alfred, who calls himself an expert on Port Royal, 'the historians, the architects and the big-money investors get together and a theme park reflective of all of the glory and shame of the past is built."

What explains so many potholes, NWA?

It does not appear that much of the CDF funds allocated to the MP for Kingston East and Port Royal, Phillip Paulwell, is spent in Port Royal. That is, according to Alfred. "Last Christmas, a few people got some bushing work. Just before Marjorie Taylor's funeral a few years ago, some of the potholes leading to the church were packed with stones and rolled. And some of the edges of the sidewalk were whitewashed. Outside of that, it seems most of the funds are spent in the main divisions in East Kingston."


Change in political choice


Last election, the PNP got 51 per cent to the JLP's 49 per cent in Port Royal, where more than 900 electors were on the list. Years ago, this was safe PNP territory. Now, if the PNP is keeping a political meeting, it has to carry in people from East Kingston," said Alfred.

The three or so miles of road from the airport roundabout to Port Royal has, over the years, intermittently attracted government agencies involved in road maintenance. While Chupski sat beside me while I drove, both of us formed an agreement that there could be no other explanation for the many potholes than poor materials used in the recent pavings.

'"I would not classify the regular JUTC service as heavy equipment, said Alfred when I quizzed him about the many potholes. 'It just look to me based on what I see in the potholes as I take my bus that it is like some powdery mall them mix into the road surface.'

That appeared to be the case as I stopped on the way back to the city and did my own layman's inspection. It seems that until the small historical city is fully redeemed with its history in the days of maritime piracy as being 'the world wickedest city' by being rebuilt and providing its citizens with a fairly fruitful way of life, the roads surface will remain as if it was carpet bombed from above.

Port Royal has old Fort Charles with cannon and the military defensive history of a past age just as much as it is inextricably tied to the tragic earthquake of 1692. All of the elements of those fortifications, the tragedy, the old hospital, the town rebuilt and all put together into an economically strong and sustainable international attraction have been needed for too long.

Of course, my MP bredrin, Phillip Paulwell, does not necessarily need that to win his seat the next time out. Like his colleague in South East St Ann, Lisa Hanna, who will still win her seat even if the road from Claremont to Nine Miles where Marley's body is at rest remains in a condition befitting a riverbed, Paulwell will earn no negatives from his sloth on the development of Port Royal.

Solve murders and significantly slow them down

In response to last Thursday's column, a reader wrote, 'Germane to your article in The Gleaner regarding Ms Novelette Grant for the post of commissioner, I wholeheartedly support your view.

'Ms. Grant would've been Jamaica's first female commissioner of police and would, therefore, have something special to prove. That zeal, energy and zest is exactly what the role of commissioner of police requires. No disrespect to Mr Quallo, but he appears to just be going through the motions.

"The command course that is a requirement for all senior officers was developed in part by none other than Novelette Grant. Having written the theory, she must be itching for the practical. This fact seemed to have been lost on the Police Service Commission, and the country is worse off for it."

It is plain to the least of us that whatever it is that constitutes the main motivating factors for murders, the very fact that most perpetrators are never held and brought before the courts in successful prosecutions in itself gives the murder-minded an ease that he would not have had if the police was in the business of nabbing the vast majority in 48 hours.

It seems that the minister of national security is fully on board with the recognition that good detective work has to be supported by all of the modern-day trappings of digital technology and forensics that the country can reasonably afford.

One part of a release from the ministry said, 'The Ministry of National Security has invested over J$161 million to build new facilities (The Annex) at the Institute of Forensic Science and Legal Medicine in an effort to have more robust processing of evidence related to criminal matters."

One senior police officer who enjoyed an unusual fame in his younger days said to me last Thursday, "It cannot be an overnight thing. If there is one area where the JCF has to be proactive, it has to be in not just taking the fight to the gunmen on their turf in the dangerous trenches but in technology. If we get all the fancy technology, forensics and personnel smarts together and begin to top out the 'solved murders' category, in two, three years, people will begin to think differently.

"But, you know, we will still have to deal with the remaining jackals on their own turf.'"

- Mark Wignall is a political- and public-affairs commentator. Email

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