Tue | Oct 17, 2017

St Thomas residents disgruntled

Published:Monday | June 27, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Ferguson

MORANT BAY, St Thomas:

Tempers flared last Tuesday as hundreds of St Thomas residents rejected the revised version of the South Coastal Improvement Highway Plan (SCHIP) that was presented by representatives of the National Works Agency (NWA).

Despite the heavy rains, scores of parishioners flooded the Anglican Church Hall in the parish capital, where the town hall meeting to address matters concerning the promised highway was held.

Manager of major projects at the NWA, Alfonso Marshall, was unable to complete his presentation because of interruptions from residents who were determined to disorderly voice their displeasure regarding the plans.

Members of Parliament for St Thomas East and West, respectively, Dr Fenton Ferguson and James Robertson, were also in attendance and made efforts to contain the angry residents, but to no avail.

In his address, Ferguson pointed out that in all his 38 years in the parish, this is the first issue that he has seen that has irked the people of St Thomas to the extent that they are all united despite political affiliation.

"I have made it very clear that I will have no hesitation to lead this process. I have said it and I will repeat it - that failure to deliver this road, while it will be peaceful, it will make the Morant Bay uprising seem like a very small gesture for what is to come.

So I say to the transport sector, I say to the ministers fraternal, to the businessmen in this parish, I say to the civil society groups, I say it to the farmers and the churches in general, prepare yourself for battle," Ferguson declared.

With hopes of satiating the irate crowd, director of major projects at the NWA, O'Rielly Henry, addressed the issue of whether a contract was signed to secure a sum of $384 million for the SCHIP.

NO LOAN AGREEMENT

"It was conditional. There was no loan agreement in place at the time and there is still none now. Changes were made to make the plan more cost-effective, whether you agree or not. We function according to policy," he said.

And like fuel to fire, the room was again set ablaze.

"Then if we don't have a say, why are you here?" "Give us our fair share!" and "Our views don't count?"

Another upset resident, who refused to be shushed, shouted: "First, you tell us that we aren't economically viable, then you are telling us that we don't have a say. This reminds me of the saying, 'Don't go in sardine tin when matches box can hold yuh'. Is that what you're telling us? St Thomas people are idiots? You come talking about rehabilitation as if we don't know that means patching. We won't accept that!"

rural@gleanerjm.com