Wed | Nov 21, 2018

'Redeveloping Heroes Circle is to your benefit'

Published:Thursday | August 16, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Urban Development Corporation chairman Senator Ransford Braham endorses the unveiled Houses of Parliament Design Competition poster at the official launch in May. Prime Minister Andrew Holness looks on.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness is reassuring residents in the communities adjacent to the National Heroes Park in Kingston that the planned redevelopment of the area will be to their benefit, hence they have no reason to be concerned.

Residents have been expressing fears about what will become of their communities in light of the Government's plans to build the Government Oval Campus - which will house the new Parliament building - in the park.

Addressing the administration's quarterly press briefing at Jamaica House yesterday, Holness asked the public to reject the notions of people in certain quarters who latch on to the fear of residents to remain relevant, adding that the town hall meeting that was staged to give residents an opportunity to raise concerns was "hijacked for political reasons".

"I think the public must reject this as political argument because that's all it is, and it's the only thing they have to latch on to," Holness said in response to a question, adding that he would be holding consultations with the residents to explain the process.

"When it comes to certain projects, we as a country should set aside all the political considerations and focus on what is in the best interest of the country. And I firmly believe that what is in the best interest of the country is to have that area developed."

Last month, residents from Allman Town and surrounding communities spoke out against some aspects of the redevelopment during an RJR/GLEANER Communications Group town hall meeting. They cited lack of information on the matter and voiced worries about the possibility of having to relocate to facilitate the redevelopment. They also wanted to know if they would be compensated.

 

NOT 'WILLY-NILLY'

 

Holness was strident in his reaction, telling the nation through the press briefing that development could not happen "willy-nilly".

He said that it was never the Government's intention "to just go in, bulldoze, dislocate, and remove people from their homes". He noted that things required a process, adding that the administration was not yet at that stage.

"We could have gone and developed the project internally, bring it to a point where all the details have been resolved and then come to the public, but what we did was while we were developing the project internally, we were informing the public," said Holness.

According to the prime minister, that created gaps in information, which some people exploited.

"This ends up now making the project seem like some devious connivance of the Government to undermine the people of the community. But of what benefit is that to Jamaica? Should the people who live in that community remain in that way for another 20, 30, 40 years as they have done since the last 40 years?" Holness asked.

"Who is saying, 'Let us transform your community'. Who has said it? And what should the people who are working on the project do at this point? Back away from it now, which is effectively what has been created in the public domain? Should we leave it alone now?"

He stressed: "Action your prosperity, action your progress; associate yourselves with projects that are improving the quality of your lives. Look for the people who are saying to you, 'Let us rebuild your community', and ignore those who are saying, 'Well, if the community changes, I may lose political power'."

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com