Thu | Aug 16, 2018

McNeil's misses

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill (second right), discusses rescuing Fort Charlotte from further decay with Member of Parliament Ian Hayles (right). Behind them are members of a party that toured Lucea in 2014 to look at what needs to be done to transform the town.
Claudia Gardener, photo Ras Dawit
Trevor Craig

Stakeholders in Lucea, Hanover, are angry that months after Tourism Minister Dr Wykeham McNeill led a tour of the town and gave the assurance that measures would be taken to improve the aesthetics of the area, nothing has been done.

McNeil has also promised that remedial work would be done at the historic Fort Charlotte and that the roadway from the Riley Bridge to Church Street would be rehabilitated.

"The Minister of Tourism conducted a tour from the Grand Palladium, coming through Lucea, and looked at many places and made lots of promises. And since he left, nothing, absolutely nothing, has been done, and that was four to five months ago," said Nerris Hawthorne, president of the Lucea Development Initiative, during a recent meeting in Negril.

"The minister also promised assistance in fixing of a road where the NWC (National Water Commission) is doing repairs, that it would not be just half the road that's going to be asphalted; they would do the entire road surface. But what's happened now is that the NWC has done their half and left," lamented Hawthorne.

On September 23 last year, McNeill, accompanied by the permanent secretary in the tourism ministry and other senior tourism officials, had toured sections of Lucea, including Fort Charlotte.

At the time, McNeill expressed dissatisfaction with the aesthetics of the town, and said he was activating a programme to have the relevant state agencies undertake remedial works there.

"The other night I was coming through, and when I looked at the town, I was appalled. And when you consider that possibly in excess of 200,000 visitors pass through here, as well as the people in the town, it really was unacceptable..." said McNeill at that time.

Transformative programme

The tourism minister further stated that there were "some issues with the drains, sidewalks and the cleanliness and beauty of the town", and that the technical teams would get the town "to a standard that we can be proud of".

He told residents that his ministry was looking at a transformative programme for Lucea, similar to those undertaken in Ocho Rios, Falmouth and Negril.

Regarding Fort Charlotte, McNeill had said remedial works must be carried out at the fort as a matter of urgency.

But Trevor Craig, director

of the Rastafari Community Development Foundation (RCDF), said he was appalled that the overhaul of the town seemed to be at a standstill.

"We saw it on the television - these ministers on tour, walking through Lucea, along with parish councillors and other officials in September. And up to now, we haven't seen a follow-up on this, and Lucea is infested with rats! We are concerned, as tax-payers, as residents of this town, and we have to make some drastic changes," said Craig.

His colleague, vice-president of the HRCDF, Ras Dawit, was similarly disenchanted.

"What they have done to Lucea is basically like flying a false flag. Any promise not kept by any politician, they should be called to task for it. Even though they give us that immediate promise, we know say a face card, but we expect them to at least follow through and let us know where we are on that promise," said Dawit.

"I think it shows weak leadership; it shows the people that the politicians can just say the things they want to us and leave us with that and never fulfil it. They need to be called to task and reported when they don't fulfil promises. Their offices need to be written to. The community need to show their dissatisfaction when they are promised things that they don't fulfil," Dawit stressed.

When contacted, chairman of the Hanover Parish Council's Planning Committee, Lloyd Hill, told The Sunday Gleaner that estimates regarding works at Fort Charlotte had been submitted, but that there is a need for a follow-up.

"Preliminary things are being done, and estimates have been submitted to the minister, in terms of some preliminary work which he had committed himself to. So that has to do with re-establishing the rails, the seats, a bathroom facility, and so on. But in the meantime, the council is cleaning up the place, because it is still being used anyway. We have to do a follow-up," he said.