Tue | Sep 18, 2018

West Kingston residents bitter over the State’s failure to provide well needed infrastructure

Published:Sunday | February 1, 2015 | 11:03 PMGary Spaulding
FILE Member of Parliament for West Kingston Desmond McKenzie (left) hands out packages of food during the West Kingston Annual Senior Citizens Treat at the Tivoli Gardens Community Centre in December.
FILE Desmond McKenzie (left) points out concerns in his constituency to the Police Commissioner Owen Ellington following the shooting of 12 persons, two of whom died, at Bread Lane in Denham Town, west Kingston, last April.

The image of Western Kingston as a place of stark contrasts has not escaped the residents of the constituency.

Over the years, Western Kingston has paraded some of the most feared gangs and gangsters in Jamaica's history.

But it is the also an authentic centre of commerce in the Corporate Area, a cultural gem and the source of some of the top sports teams to have graced the fields and courts across the island.

"Based on the situation, the needs of the constituency and the importance of where the constituency is located, we should have seen much more being done," lamented Cathy, a West Kingston resident.

The constituency has, for many years, developed a reputation of ruthlessness with gangs and dons perpetrating untold wickedness outside its locale.

But Western Kingston has also been acknowledged for keeping atrocities outside its borders by protecting its people through its "unique" form of governance.

This characterisation is not confined to one section of the constituency, dominated in large measure by garrison communities that support the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).

Today, there is a move to exorcise the demons of donmanship in the entrenched gang culture.

Up to four years ago, Christopher 'Dudus' Coke dominated the extreme west with Donald 'Zeeks' Phipps once holding sway in the more easterly quarters of West Kingston.

Both men, who crafted a truce that enabled them to operate their domains effectively, are now behind bars - one in the United States and the other in Jamaica - but the ghost of the past still lingers.

The people of western Kingston are fiercely proud. And they think that they are miserably shortchanged.

They lament that every time there is a flare-up of violence - and not just since the May 2010 security forces operation - ministers of government, public officials, representatives of State agencies and members of the public sector, have repeatedly toured the area to view the unlivable conditions with promises of assistance all to no effect.

"All we get is pure promises," complained one resident of the constituency who gave his name as John.

Another resident stated that there is a serious deficiency in infrastructure.

He cited the unabated flow of raw sewage from several houses into streets. Water woes are also drowning the community in misery.

Promises to address these issues are just that - empty ones, charged several resident who, by their pronouncements, are wracked by an agonising existence.

Asked what he proposed to do about the water and sewage problems, Desmond McKenzie, the MP, said he was promised by the last chairman of the National Water Commission that something would be done.

"But he has gone and I don't know now who is the president so I don't know who to call."

McKenzie said he is reduced to begging favours from government ministers and public officials.

"I don't believe that you should be reduced to having a relationship with a government minister where, because you know that person, you can take up your phone and you can call them and you can do something."

Except for the housing schemes in Tivoli Gardens, Hannah Town and Denham Town, the majority of the houses in the constituency are old and decrepit.

"The housing need in Western Kingston is great right now," declared Ralph, who has lived in the constituency for all his life.

Then there is the limping downtown redevelopment project which the residents had expected to breath new life into the area.

"All the development that was put in the place in the commercial district has been put on hold and it tells us that not much emphasis is being placed on the area," said an elderly resident.