Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Roadwork to roll into Palmers Cross, but after by-election – PM

Published:Monday | February 17, 2020 | 12:24 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writer
Pearnel Charles Jr (second left) and wife Eleasia (left) march hand in hand with (from third left) Jamaica Labour Party leader Andrew Holness, St Andrew East Rural MP Juliet Holness, JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, and former Clarendon South East MP Rudyard Spencer. They participated in the nomination of Charles last Wednesday for the March 2 by-election.
Pearnel Charles Jr (second left) and wife Eleasia (left) march hand in hand with (from third left) Jamaica Labour Party leader Andrew Holness, St Andrew East Rural MP Juliet Holness, JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang, and former Clarendon South East MP Rudyard Spencer. They participated in the nomination of Charles last Wednesday for the March 2 by-election.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness pledged yesterday to deliver infrastructural investment to Clarendon South East but cautioned Labourites that he would hold off the rollout of projects till after the March 2 by-election.

Apparently smarting from criticism from the Opposition, civil-society groups, and the political ombudsman, Holness told supporters that he was wary of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration being mired in allegations of the misuse of state funds for partisan gain.

The party leader told supporters that he was aware that the people of Palmers Cross were desperate for the repair of rapidly deteriorating roadways. Holness admitted that Rudyard Spencer, the four-term Clarendon South East member of parliament (MP) who resigned earlier this month, had often pressed him to address the road crisis.

“I get a lot of calls from Ruddy when he was MP, and he would just pop up at my office. ‘Palmers Cross road, Boss, what you going to do about Palmers Cross road?’” Holness said, recalling Spencer’s lobbying.

“I know how this thing work. You going to hear the political ombudsman talk about the election, and we don’t need that distraction, so we will wait until afterwards so that there will be no issue, even though this was in the works long before Ruddy made his decision,” he said to cheers at an Area Council Three meeting held inside the auditorium of Vere Technical High School.

The Holness administration has been pilloried for pushing infrastructural work in constituencies ahead of by-elections, particularly in the St Mary South East, St Andrew North West, and Portland East polls of 2017, 2018, and 2019, respectively. The JLP won all by-elections.

St Mary South East came under particular scrutiny after a $600-million bush-clearing and drain-cleaning project was condemned by the Opposition as a blatant attempt at winning votes. However, the prime minister slammed detractors for politicking, arguing that state resources were judiciously deployed to fix long-term problems.

“In South East St Mary, the allocations that were made there were justified. In North Western St Andrew, the allocations that were made were justified and were in the works long before the election was called, and that is very important,” he said in March 2018.

INVESTMENTS TO COME

At yesterday’s Area Council Three meeting, a fired-up Pearnel Charles Jr electrified the green-clad crowd with news that investments would soon be rolling into the seat.

“So the little time I have been here, I have already started to have conversations with investors who are looking at South East lands to build BPO and economic opportunities,” he said, referring to the emerging business process outsourcing sector, which has mushroomed a clutch of call centres islandwide with an estimated 30,000-plus jobs.

Charles Jr also shared that he had convened a meeting with Minister of Agriculture Audley Shaw about the mothballed Monymusk estate and scores of displaced sugar workers.

He said that the first batch of 15 workers whose jobs were made redundant after Pan Caribbean Sugar Company pulled out of a bleeding operation will receive farmlands today.

Charles Jr also put the prime minister on alert, facetiously warning him that come March 3 – the day after the by-election – he would be knocking on his door in advocacy about unresolved issues in the constituency.

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