Tue | Aug 21, 2018

From roads to arcade, St Thomas in shambles

Published:Saturday | August 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM


Travelling from Kingston to St Thomas to meet my brother's new American wife, I looked at the road through the eyes of a first-time visitor and found myself disgusted with its condition.

I was disgusted not only by the road surface itself, in all its undeniably potholed glory (My sister-in-law said our main roads here are like their worst back roads. Can you say 'embarrassed'?), but by the garbage littering the roadway.

Why are we so nasty? Why must we throw our garbage out the nearest window of a moving vehicle? Bull Bay to Yallahs has to be the dirtiest stretch of road in Jamaica. Plastic bottles, bags, wash pans (seriously?!) of every shape, size and colour can be found.

JEEP is part of a plastic recycling initiative. Can St Thomas please be included in this? The bushes, trees and random piles of sand need to be removed. Where is the parish council that apparently used to handle clean-up of the highway? Where is our civic pride or just general cleanliness in our surroundings?

It saddens me that this was my sister-in-law's first impression of my home parish and Jamaica in general.

St Thomas' capital, Morant Bay, is even more depressing: Blocked drains with stagnant water (again, those poor plastic containers), broken sidewalks with grass and small trees growing in them, and unpainted buildings in one of the oldest capitals in Jamaica.

Parish council, what did you do with your allocation? It was clearly not spent on keeping the roads repaired and cleaned. The 'arcade', with its broken-down wooden stalls, is a sure haven for vermin and needs to be rehabilitated or, better yet, just demolished.

I remember when there used to be a garbage bin on every corner and a time when people used them, and I'm in my 30s. There is one major road through the town. Why must it be in that condition?

Storeowners are just as bad. The parish's largest supermarket, also in the capital, is so dingy; its floor, the shopping carts; not to mention the supermarket directly across from it that is so dark on the inside, you can't see the items properly.

But we sit and we accept. Speaking to an acquaintance, he was of the opinion that this was how people liked it. They don't want the place to look good. They are quite happy walking, sitting and selling their wares in what has to be the ugliest, dirtiest and most depressing town centre in Jamaica. It didn't even bother him any more to throw his trash in the drain since the whole place already looks so bad. He says he comes into Kingston when he wants to lift his spirits. Portland and St Mary are also poor parishes, but their town centres seem to be more maintained and are certainly cleaner.

The people of St Thomas keep voting in the same officials every election, even though these officials have done nothing to improve the parish they are representing. Yes, there may be limited job prospects, but must we also sit in our own filth and be happy about it?

I believe that the way we keep our surroundings is a reflection of our state of mind. Are we so short-sighted that we do not see the long-term benefits of a clean, well-maintained parish? When people are uplifted in and by their surroundings, they are more likely to be creative, and this creativity can lead to great productivity.