Sat | Dec 10, 2016

The reality of being a rural MP

Published:Wednesday | February 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Dr Lynvale Bloomfield
File A man making his way along the treacherous roadway created by a landslide in a section of the Rio Grande Valley in Portland.
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Dr Lynvale Bloomfield, member of parliament (MP) for Eastern Portland, said constituencies like his have not been properly treated by successive administrations, but he says he will not publicly blast ministers of his government in order to get assistance in his area.

Bloomfield, speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week, said he understood the fiscal realities within which the Government operates and that public outcry would not necessarily yield positive results.

"We all understand that things are difficult, and we knew what we were getting into with respect to the rest of the world and the economic crunch and everything else," Bloomfield said.

He nonetheless complained that Portland has been neglected and that he has been like a "quiet storm" in trying to bring change to his section of eastern Jamaica.

"My constituency, among others on the northeast side of Jamaica, is a special challenge. We have always been seen as distant cousins. We started tourism. At one point, we had 29 sugar plantations. Now we have none. ... I suffer from the reality that we have some of the most rugged terrain in Jamaica and the most extensive. It takes me two and a half hours to travel from one side of the community to the other," Bloomfied said of eastern Portland.

Asked if Dr Peter Phillips, the country's finance minister, has forgotten Portland, Bloomfield said no, arguing that his inability to secure massive spending from the public purse "is an objective situation with the money".

Bloomfield won East Portland in the 2011 General Election, beating Patrick Lee of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) by 1,246 votes. The elections were fiercely contested and some analysts predicted the seat would have fallen to the JLP for the first time since 1983.

The incumbent, now three years into office, is feeling the reality of political representation. He said, for example, that his constituents want him to be more vocal about some of the things that are affecting them.

"Persons in Portland have been pushing me for a long time, 'Start to raise your voice. Cuss! Make some noise and hit out at Government!' That is not the solution by any means. All it does is create more problems. What we have to do is go meaningfully, one-on-one, and have a quiet fight, a quiet storm, in order to get some things done," Bloomfield said.

The first-time MP laments that infrastructure such as water and roads is a major need in his constituency, and that being a rural area, he has had to fight very hard to get assistance for the people.

"It is harder to get it to a rural area such as Portland, up in the Rio Grande Valley, through the Cunna Cunna Pass, into places where nobody in Jamaica knows exists, where some roads have never been done, never been surfaced, in the history of this country," Bloomfield said.

"These are the realities that we have to deal with - where people get catchment water and they turn on the pipe and you see janga, you see worms, you see all kinds of things. We have to put up with this kind of things. We bring these things to the pertinent agencies and persons, but it is like pulling teeth," Bloomfield added.

He said, however, that the way to get change is to find transformational methodologies to deal with the problems.

"One of them is not to go out there and hit at every minister and say, 'Him naah do nuttn an' him naah tek care a wi'. It is not a partisan thing. I have stood up and said what I need to say where I need to say it, and it might not have gone over well to some people, but you speak truth to power," Bloomfield said.

The first-time MP, who charged that too much time is wasted in Gordon House, said that as a country, more could be done with the limited resources.

"More creativity can be put to it. We have been pushing, through agriculture, through HEART, but the bureaucracy is the other thing. It is a hard thing to come from country and nobody wants to listen to you. It is a mindset that this country will have to divest itself of if we are going to move forward as a whole," Bloomfield said.

Bloomfield said that during the time of the election campaign in 2011 when Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller toured with him, "we used the opportunity to make sure she went through some of the most rugged territory to make sure that these roads just can't exist".

"As a result, I have got one road for $27 million; one for $200-and-odd million that is supposed to start; a couple of bridges; and the $1.8 billion water, sewage, and drainage project in Port Antonio," the MP said, adding that his constituency was also set to receive a major boost in the area of tourism product development.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com