PNP has strong record of performance -- Blythe
Dr Karl Blythe, the man who served as member of parliament (MP) for four terms between 1989 and 2007, said the People's National Party (PNP) has a strong record of performance in Central Westmoreland, dismissing claims that he and his compatriots have failed the constituency.
"We have a solid record, but we have had a problem with one area - roads. A lot of our roads have been neglected," Blythe told The Gleaner.
He said, however, that all the PNP MPs who served the constituency made a big difference in the lives of people and their achievements will serve as an excellent platform from which parliamentary aspirant Dwayne Vaz will be catapulted into Gordon House.
"Based on the history of a Matthew Henry, a Walter Cheddesingh, a Karl Blythe and, lately, a Roger Clarke, Dwayne Vaz will be rewarded the victory, and I have no doubt about that," he told The Gleaner.
But across the constituency, the cries for water and better roads are loud. Supporters of the JLP have argued that the PNP, despite 25 years' unbroken service in Central Westmoreland, has failed the constituency. The Opposition has been telling the voters to turn their backs on Vaz, the PNP candidate, and vote instead for Faye Jacobs in the December 1 by-election.
Blythe said that he understands the concerns about roads, adding that in his time, many representations were made for repairs and rehabilitation.
"We got some fixed - a lot of them," he said, while stressing that Jamaicans should recognise that "MPs can't fix road and give water and things".
He noted that in his time as MP, representatives were given a Social and Economic Support Programme fund of $43.5 million per year to help develop their constituencies. He said his allocation invariably went to human development, through the paying of school fees and providing land titles to his constituents.
MPs currently get $15 million to do work in their constituencies under the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
Rudolph Uter, the JLP caretaker
for the Frome division in Central Westmoreland, told The Gleaner on a recent tour that poor roads is a major problem facing the constituency, even as he lamented the neglect of drains in the area.
"The PNP has been in control of Westmoreland for more than 25 years. I have been saying to my friends around, of all of the parishes and places in Jamaica, Westmoreland should have been one of the best places. It has been termed as 'PNP country'," Uter said.
"When anyone drives through the parish of Westmoreland, they can see the neglect, and I believe that the people in Westmoreland are fed up with how they have been treated and I believe they are going to use this by-election as a mark of allowing their voices to be heard," Uter added.
Blythe told The Gleaner that while the roads have not received sufficient attention, he worked overtime to bring water to the constituency.
"For water, until I became minister, we had a problem," said Blythe, who served as water minister from 1998 to 2006.
"Westmoreland saw their water supply move from a poor supply to a fantastic water supply. Anybody who tells you that they did not see that rapid movement of water improvement through the whole Westmoreland is not speaking the truth," Blythe said.
"I will admit that when I left office, somehow, when a pump went down, it was not repaired as far it should have been repaired because I [was] the minister and also the MP," he added.
Blythe said that as MP, he brought water to areas such as Cold Spring, Cornwall Mountain, Williamsfield, Glenn Isle, and Bird Mountain.
Donald Gordon, councillor for the Petersfield division in the PNP-controlled Westmoreland Parish Council, said the discussion about development in Central Westmoreland must take into consideration the fact that the constituency covers a wide geographical area.
"To have a CDF of $14 million, and with 40,000 electorates, it just cannot work. The electoral office needs to look at the boundaries and do something. It cannot continue, the lives of the people need to change. You can't have $14 million for a constituency with 20,000 people and the same $14 million that goes to a constituency with 40,000 people," Gordon said.