Thu | Apr 2, 2020

New lease on peace - Bull Bay residents look to block-making machine to calm gang rivalries

Published:Sunday | February 2, 2020 | 12:31 AMCorey Robinson - Senior Staff Reporter
Milton Stewart, one of 18 residents who graduated last Thursday from a block-making training programme.
In this January 2019 file photo, Muriel Ranger holds a picture of her nephew, Chiyano ‘Dwayne’ Lewis, who was shot and killed by gunmen in Bull Bay, St Andrew earlier that month.
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Residents of warring sections of Bull Bay in St Andrew are hoping the completion of a multimillion-dollar block-making machine from Caribbean Cement Company Ltd (CCCL) will help bolster peace in the area ravaged by gang rivalries since last year.

Assembly of the machine and its housing in 10 Miles square started in 2018, but it was finally unveiled following a ceremony there last Thursday.

Dozens of persons have been murdered over the past two years, and residents are optimistic that the machine will bring renewed peace, unity and economic stability – elements they say are essential to cooling gang rivalries in Bull Bay.

“It is a very important project because the community really needs the zinc fences to come down. That is the first thing. Is a lot of shot a fire all ’bout innah di place. Man a pass through and a do a whole heap a thing,” said Milton Stewart, one of 18 residents who graduated Thursday from a block-making training programme.

“Me nah hide and tell yuh; the place nuh pretty ’cause the likkle youth dem nah hear,” he continued. “But we need the unity, we need the peace. This war thing not nice.”

Stewart’s niece was shot in the hip when gunmen chased and fired at each other during a birthday party for his younger sister on December 30 last year. “She got it (bullet) in her hip and it fly through her … and is man a shoot after man and a run through people yard. A so the place a run,” he explained.

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“With this now, people who are interested in work, dem can get likkle work and, at the same time, we can get down some of the zinc fence dem. I think it will unite the people on some level because is not every man is going to want to come stand up in the sun and mix concrete and dem things there,” he explained.

In the meantime, 10 Miles graduate Andrea Reid said she is hoping the block factory can bring more investors to the area, adding that the women in the Bull Bay community are as hard-working as the men.

“More activities will go on in the community, more jobs. You know that when people nah work dem kinda frustrated. So we need more development here,” she said, adding that women are an integral part of the community. “Is we run the ground. We watch the machine at nights ’cause the man dem ’fraid, so the woman dem affi stay out,” she explained.

According to CCCL executives, seven women were among the graduates, which included youths from Nine, 10 and 11 Miles in Bull Bay. The machine and housing facility cost approximately US$10,000 and brought with it a lot of lessons on how to implement a project of that nature, they admitted.

The Kingston East Police Division is the latest to be added to a list of areas placed under states of public emergency following a deadly flare-up in the area.

Residents point to a string of arsons, shootings and murders, including that of 23-year-old Chiyano ‘Dwayne’ Lewis, who was peppered with bullets on January 2, last year. He reportedly crossed a bridge that serves as the official borderline for warring factions in 10 and 11 Miles.

Hours later, 63-year-old machine operator Cumi Daley was shot and killed by gunmen while making his way to work. Daley’s death sparked a protest by workers and subsequently the closure of two quarries that supply material to the cement company. Bartenders, shopkeepers and farmers also opted to go home early or turn a blind eye to the happenings.

Despite the violence, Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew Juliet Holness said on Thursday that she was confident residents would be able to unite to make the block-making initiative beneficial to all. She said it was the best fit for her constituents, based on location and demography.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com