Ronnie is running - Thwaites sets housing as his priority as he dismisses claims he is to call it a day
Member of Parliament for Central Kingston Ronald Thwaites has dismissed continuing speculation in political circles that he will not be facing the electorate in the next general election.
"My delegates and executives have, for a long time now, sanctioned my efforts at re-election, and so, with the help of God, I am in fact going to contest the election," Thwaites told The Sunday Gleaner.
According to Thwaites, having received the backing of the delegates and the support of the People's National Party's (PNP's) executives, housing renewal in the constituency is at the top of his to-do list.
Thwaites first captured the seat in 1997 and held it until 2002 before stepping down from representational politics amid allegations of professional impropriety in his handling of cheques worth millions.
Having been cleared of any wrongdoing by then Auditor General Adrian Strachan, Thwaites returned to representational politics in 2007 and retained it in the 2011 general elections.
Having now served as MP for a combined 13 years and witnessed first-hand the plight of some of his constituents who are struggling to find proper housing, the 70-year-old, who is the minister of education, admits that the housing stock in the constituency is not what it should be.
"We are talking broad upgrading, which would involve sewage, regularisation of utilities, and settlement of ownership," said Thwaites.
"I would be interested in using the rebuilding to ensure that those engaged would be the people of the inner city and that they would be receiving training and discipline as part of the rebuilding effort."
Thwaites said he would like to see the zeal of the people to possess their own homes matched by the National Housing Trust and the Urban Development Corporation in a drive for urban renewal.
"It doesn't take tens of millions of dollars. Most (members of the constituency) have made some contribution to the Trust, and a loan of say $2 million would see the reality of an improved quality of life for people.
The Central Kingston constituency includes several inner-city communities that are plagued by violence with a high level of unemployment, and Thwaites believes there is one remedy for those problems.
"I believe that education is the only reliable avenue for upward mobility and eventual prosperity," said Thwaites. "My first principle is that every child, young person, adult in Central Kingston who genuinely desires to have educational opportunities should be assisted by their member of parliament if necessary.
"And every school in the constituency has received, and will continue to receive, my full support and that of the local government representatives. We have a programme now. I think it is about 170 unattached youths who are being trained in a skill, in resocialisation and upgraded literacy and numeracy. That is a programme we would like to multiply, because we have many young people who are not engaged."
While contending that crime in the constituency has been trending down with the internecine warfare between areas such as Southside and Tel Aviv not being as prevalent, Thwaites acknowledged that there are persons in his constituency bent on lawlessness and argued that they would have to be dealt with by the police.