Tue | Sep 26, 2017

... hopelessness stifling East Central St James

Published:Tuesday | May 17, 2016 | 5:00 AM
Somerton, which was usually alive and bubbling when sugar cane production held sway in the community, has become like a ghost town.

Despite its proximity to Montego Bay, the nation's tourism capital and epicentre of the business-process outsourcing (BPO) sector, residents of East Central St James have said the constituency is embedded in hopelessness and faces an uncertain future.

"My area is underdeveloped and we do not see any representation of our member of parliament (Edmund Bartlett)," said young entrepreneur, Dwight Johnson, a resident of Chatham. "The only thing that I have seen happen in the past 15 years is a little road-fixing."

Like Johnson, Suan Jagan, a teacher, is also unhappy with Bartlett. However, her displeasure has to do with the poor state of the roads and the absence of a reliable water-supply system.

"The road is poor where I work in Lottery. It is in a deplorable condition. It is worse than a cow pasture," said Jagan. "The water does not come from the National Water Commission. It is river water the people have to use. Over the years that he has been MP, Mr Bartlett only traverses through these parts when it is close to election, so I have absolutely no hope that the road and water situations and the lack of job opportunities will change."

Bartlett, who has been MP for East Central St James since 2002, seemed to be on to something big in 2011 when he announced that Dumfries, one of the more popular townships, was to be developed into a 'satellite community', creating economic opportunities for neighbouring communities such as Hampden (on the Trelawny-St James border), Adelphi and Somerton.

However, shortly after the announcement, Bartlett's, Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) lost state power to the People's National Party (PNP) and the plan basically went into a hibernation-like state.

When the JLP returned to office earlier this year, following the February 25 general election, Bartlett quickly expressed a desire to reignite the project.

"We still have the programme to do, and I am going after it," said Bartlett, who is now Jamaica's minister of tourism. "I am working on the funding, and it is going to possibly be a joint venture. We are just trying to put things together, but one thing I can tell you is that we're going to do it."

Bartlett is also giving a commitment to address the constituency's water problem, which has had residents such as Alicia Robinson of Somerton, peeved for a long time.

"Most times the people have to go around to England, in Yorkland district, to get water," said Robinson, explaining the water problem in her community.

However, Barlett said the water situation is to get priority attention and will be done prior to the planned development of Dumfries

"We are going to need to solve the water problem. Ahead of that is the Canaan water source that we want to build, and to expand the pumps so we do not have any problems with water for the whole of that area," said Bartlett. "That was an election promise and a campaign undertaking, so we are going to do what we have to do."

Smalling, a resident of Dumfries, is not impressed by Bartlett's latest pronouncement, saying she has heard many such promises before.

"If, after more than 15 years, Mr Bartlett is still promising, I would be a fool to believe him," she said.

- C.T.