Sun | Oct 22, 2017

Park Lee residents impatient after years in darkness

Published:Saturday | February 28, 2015 | 12:00 AMLauntia Cuff
Delcia Davis looks over her receipt and documents received from the Rural Electrification Programme. 
A frustrated Karlene Grindley points to a post without metre in front of her home which has been wired and passed for almost two years without any word from the Rural Electrification Programme.
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Electricity has become a very essential part of human life. However, in 2015, there are still communities in Jamaica where residents do not have access to electricity in their homes. One such area is the Park Lee community in southwest St Elizabeth.

There have been recent calls from Jamaica Labour Party caretaker Floyd Green for urgent attention to be given to the area, as the project was started over three years ago, in 2011, and the residents are frustrated by the situation.

Karlene Grindley said that, after paying the required fee in June 2011 and her house being wired and passed for almost two years, there was still no word on when she would receive electricity, despite numerous checks with Rural Electrification Programme.

"April coming [will be] two years now since the house wire and pass, and me keep calling and calling and them tell we all kind of something, ring around and everything," she said.

She said the students who live in the community are at the greatest disadvantage; her two children, one who is in sixth form and the other who is a college student, included.

"They (children) going to school and they have to study with lamp light at night. I have to beg one of [their] aunties a little book light and then stick it on the book. Sometimes I get up at night and look, I cry [to] see how [them] a study with lamp light," she told Rural Xpress.

Qudian Cole, who is currently in upper sixth form at Black River High School, said she, too, had many challenges when she was doing her external exams. She said she would sometimes have to go to her cousin's house to study and complete her work, and often would be going home as late as one o'clock in the morning.

 

difficult to cope with

 

"I have 10 CSEC subjects, three CAPE, and I'm going to do six CAPE this year; it's really difficult. I remember [for] my physics exam - that was back in 2013 - I had to use the phone light because there was no kerosene oil remaining in the lamp, and [the phone light kept going out], in that subject, I got a grade three and my teacher was saying 'you know you could do better'. At school, I don't tell anybody that I don't have electricity. I just pretend that I am a normal person and I do normal things like everybody else.

"I was one of the top students in the science department that year - among seven other students - and I know I could have done better if I had the light instead of going to my cousin's house every night and studying and doing all my SBAs and labs. Some of my friends who have electricity at home - when I finished my work and went to school, I helped them too. They would believe that I have electricity, but I don't," she explained.

One resident, Douglas Ferguson, said that even chickens are better off than the residents living in the area.

"You know say fowl better than we? Go a anybody yard [who] raise white fowl and see if them no got light in a them coup. Check we. A old-time bottle lamp we have to use.

"If we no beg people put down little meat fi we, we no have no meat put down. We have to beg people from outside to see if they can put down this fi we, and if they say the fridge is full, we have to make sure we use it at the same time, and if we no use it, give it [away]," Ferguson explained.

 

a real shame

 

Floyd Green said that what is happening in the community was truly a shame and an example of poor representation.

"I think it's truly a shame what is happening to residents of Park Lee when you think that we are in 2015 and we still have our children having to study using kerosene lamps and young women and children going home at night with no electricity in their community. It is really something that needs urgent attention.

"I think there are a number of questions that need to be answered. Clearly, we need to hear from the Rural Electrification Programme to explain why it is that, three years after the project commenced, the people of Park Lee have still not seen electricity despite them having their houses wired and paying the requisite deposit. That cannot go unanswered. As you speak to residents, you see that there is just a clear lack of representation. Nobody has been speaking on behalf of their issues and one would expect that is the role of a member of parliament, but you haven't heard anything from the member of parliament in relation to how the situation will be remedied or even some advocacy [for] the Rural Electrification Programme [to] remedy the situation," Green told Rural Xpress.

rural@gleanerjm.com