Benny White must go - Vaz
Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer
Port Antonio, Portland:Angered by what he termed incompetence on the part of the Portland Parish Council, West Portland Member of Parliament (MP) Daryl Vaz yesterday condemned the deplorable state of the roadway in Port Antonio and called for the immediate resignation of Mayor Benny White.
Vaz, who did not mince words during a press conference held at the office of the Parish Development Committee (PDC), chided the parish council for failing to act responsibly in ensuring that contractors assigned to a $1.8-billion water, drainage, and sewerage project being undertaken by Vinci Construction Company are supervised and held accountable.
"This is damn madness and a disgrace!" Vaz charged.
"What has happened here is a disgrace on the part of implementing agency - the National Water Commission (NWC) - the parish council, and the contractor, who is highly recommended and is renowned internationally. The council has allowed business operators, consumers, motorists, and commuters to be exposed to this kind of muddy and deplorable road condition in a [parish] capital. This is unacceptable!"
According to Vaz, the deadline for phase one of the project, which was scheduled for completion last September, was extended to the end of December.
He said, however, that with almost all the roadways in and around Port Antonio already dug up, forcing the public to manoeuvre through marl and dirt, it was almost certain that another extension would have to be granted. Such an extension, he said, would result in cost overruns at the expense of taxpayers.
Said Vaz: "Everyone knows that Portland is dear to my heart. And since nobody wants to touch this issue, then I will. This kind of digging up of every major street simultaneously could not take place in West Portland. Consideration must be given to the business community, consumers, motorists, commuters, and pedestrians. It's the mayor's town, and all they (directors at the council) do is to sit at the parish council while the people are faced with mud, dust, and slippery conditions. I am calling for the mayor to resign."
White, who switched allegiance to the People's National Party (PNP) in 2003 after crossing the floor, is enjoying a second stint as chairman of the Portland Parish Council.
All the major thoroughfares in Port Antonio - including West Street, William Street, Harbour Street, Bridge Street, Blake Street, Allan Avenue, Fore Shore Road, Manning Avenue, Smatt Road, Sommers Town Road, Nut Hall Road, Halls Avenue, Red Hassle Road, and Harper's Lane - were dug up simultaneously.
Larry Roberts, chairman of the PDC and a member of the PNP, is supporting the West Portland MP's decision to seek redress on the part of the public, who, he said, have suffered at the hands of the contractors for the better part of 16 months.
"I gladly make my office available for Mr Vaz to hold this press conference," said Roberts.
He added: "The PDC has lost 14 computers due to the dust nuisance caused by the ongoing roadwork. We have to be compensated as this has resulted in the closure of our Internet café. I am in full agreement with Vaz as the people cannot be made to suffer any longer."
Vaz sounded a warning to the NWC, the Portland Parish Council, and Vinci Construction Company that unless he and East Portland MP Dr Lynvale Bloomfield are invited to a meeting by next Monday to discuss the way forward in ensuring that the road conditions are addressed and improved in the shortest possible time, it will not be business as usual, and he will be taking matters into his own hands.