Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Give us water, roads, jobs - Voters vow not to switch parties for upcoming polls, hope for better days

Published:Saturday | November 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Containers line the side of this dwelling at Mount Stewart, Central Westmoreland. Rainfall is a major source of domestic water for residents. - Photo by Ian Allen/Photographer
Rudolph Uter, Jamaica Labour Party caretaker for the Frome division, says the People's National Party has neglected Central Westmoreland. - Photo by Ian Allen/Photographer
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Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

THE BRIGHT afternoon sunlight had given way to overcast conditions at Grand Town in the Cornwall Mountain division in Central Westmoreland.

For Joy Malcolm, a 60-year-old resident, imminent rainfall in the Westmoreland hills is something most welcome. Piped water in her community is luxury, even though water mains are connected to several houses.

"We get water from above, now, and store it in tanks and drums. When we don't get any rain and we don't have any water, we are doomed," she told The Gleaner.

Nearly all the houses - big and small, board and concrete - are affixed with a gutter, which channels rainwater from roofs into waiting catchments.

One shopkeeper commented that Central Westmoreland has at least three surface-water sources, which should have made it easy for its residents to be reliably supplied with potable water. It is a point which is not lost on Malcolm, who has lived in the community all her life and has had to deal with the realities of extended lock-offs.

"Whenever we have problems with water and we call, we get only one truckload for this entire community. We have to block the road to get what we want, and it is frustrating," Malcolm said.

Many of Grand Town's voters have demonstrated a liking for the People's National Party (PNP).

Malcolm said that the constituency's last member of parliament (MP), Roger Clarke, was making progress in seeking to address water conditions in the area.

"He was aware of it, and he was trying to get the system up before he died. We need water, and we need roads and jobs," Malcolm said.

Those issues, she said, will have to be on the top of the priority list for the next MP.

Faye Jacobs of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), Dwayne Vaz of the PNP, and Ras Astor Black, an independent candidate, are to face off in a December 1 by-election to fill Clarke's shoes.

'DIE-HEARTED SOCIALIST'

"The guy, we know him; but the lady, we don't know her. We are wondering if she is going to come around to introduce herself for us to decide," Malcolm said, even as she wore a smirk which betrayed the fact she had already made up her mind.

"I am a 'die-hearted' socialist," she said.

"This is a stronghold for the PNP. The PNP never lose down here yet. If they feel like vote for her, probably they will give her a chance, and if they don't feel like, PNP will win," Malcolm told The Gleaner.

Asked whether it is an indictment on the PNP that it has held the constituency since 1989 and yet there were serious representational issues, Malcolm said "sometimes you can't blame the prime minister".

"My father always said you can't give a hungry man your food to carry," she said.

"We have gotten such a blunt. Each time we put them in, we don't get the results. They promise, and when they come in, there is no fulfilment, so you never can tell," Malcolm said in response to whether persons may stay home and refuse to vote.

"We need help, and they must now buckle up themselves and come out and help us. We need work, and we need roads and water," she said.

"I don't know yet if I am going to vote. I told myself that I was not going to vote, but I haven't made up my mind. It is either I vote for the youngster (Vaz) or I don't vote," she added.

"Mr Vaz has to come good," she added, even as she gave a resounding "no" when asked whether she would consider voting for Jacobs.

'Stagga', a JLP supporter at Mount Stewart, a community below Cornwall Mountain, said he has not seen water in his pipe for more than three years.

"Me nuh know if a spite dem a spite wi say a pure Labourite down here, cause di PNP dem have water and we nuh have nuh water," Stagga said.

PNP VULNERABLE

He suggested that Jacobs may be a weaker candidate than Marlene Malahoo-Forte, who lost the seat to Clarke by 3,042 votes in the 2011 general election. He said, however, that the JLP still stands a chance, as Clarke was a heavyweight, unlike Vaz, thus making the PNP vulnerable this time around.

One young man, who told The Gleaner he twice voted for the PNP, said he is not minded to go to the polls this time around.

"Right now, is nuff people mi hear say dem nah vote. Me hear Portia [Simpson Miller] a say this is PNP country, and some people a say if dem send a dog inna PNP shirt, the PNP going to win. But if Dwayne Vaz a dog, him might turn a puppy, 'cause Miss (Faye) Reid (Jacobs) a do house-to-house and people want a change," a Cornwall Mountain resident told The Gleaner.

That sentiment, however, was not the reflection of the majority of the persons The Gleaner spoke with in Cornwall Mountain. One group of men told our news team that even though campaigning activities have not reached the hills, most persons are determined to give Vaz an opportunity to carry on the work of the PNP in Central Westmoreland.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com