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Basket to carry water: First-time MP Desmond McKenzie laments the treatment of his constituency

Published:Monday | February 2, 2015 | 12:00 AM

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Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

Although not a newcomer to representational politics, having spent decades at the local government level, Desmond McKenzie's first term as a member of parliament has cemented, in his mind, something he always believed - the West Kingston constituency is being politically stifled in just about all spheres.

Armed with the experience of being a long-time councillor and a two-term mayor of Kingston, McKenzie last week asserted that he is hardly surprised that West Kingston is being neglected by the People's National Party (PNP) Government.

"Everything positive that has been done to West Kingston was done under Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administrations," charged McKenzie.

"In terms of the infrastructure such as housing, roads, water, it has been a disappointing first term as a newly elected member of parliament," he added.

According to McKenzie, Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in her first Budget presentation in 2012, promised 20 houses for West Kingston under the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP), none of which has been forthcoming.

"Going over three years now, I can't get one," he lamented. "So my expectation as a member of parliament has been pretty low."

Added McKenzie: "It is sad if I say that as a JLP member of parliament I was expecting this kind of treatment based on how they (West Kingston) have been treated in the past under former MPs Edward Seaga and Bruce Golding."

Brown Burke supports

McKenzie, however, applauded his former opposition counterpart at the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), Angela Brown Burke, the current mayor of Kingston, for the support she has offered to advance his constituency.

He said, in terms of ministerial response, the ministries of labour and social security as well as health, rank above all others.

First elected councillor for the Denham Town division in the KSAC in the local government election of March 1977, McKenzie switched to the Tivoli Gardens division in 1990. Both are in West Kingston.

In 2003, as a councilor for the Tivoli Gardens Division, McKenzie was elected mayor of Kingston, and again in 2007.

He retained the position until 2011 when former prime minister and leader of the JLP, Bruce Golding, demitted office.

"The pleasure of representing the people at a higher level is something that I had always looked forward to," said McKenzie.

"But in terms of my expectations in giving them the kind of service that they deserve, it leaves much to be desired," he added.

According to McKenzie, outside of the normal benefits from Government such as the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and occasional proceeds from the JEEP, the constituency is ignored.

"In terms of making representations and getting any other benefit, it is difficult," he said.

McKenzie cited, as one of his greatest disappointments, the failure of the Urban Renewal Programme to live up to its promises after the 2010 operation in West Kingston by members of the security forces.

"It was slated to start in West Kingston in Tivoli Gardens but, when the Government changed, the programme was moved out of West Kingston and placed in another constituency," he complained.

Citing the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) as an example, McKenzie said: "I am totally disappointed with the performance of the government agencies that operate in the constituency."

CSJP is a multi-faceted crime and violence-prevention initiative of the Ministry of National Security which focuses on building community safety and security.

The programme provides crime and violence-prevention services to 39 vulnerable and volatile communities, spanning eight parishes, and conducts institutional strengthening.

"The CSJP has acted in a very political way in terms of how it operates. I thought the purpose of it was to deal with areas that have a chronic problem of crime and violence," he said. "West Kingston is one such area, but what we have got out of CSJP leaves much to be desired."

Added McKenzie: "There are other areas such as the JSIF (Jamaica Social Investment Fund) that I can speak about that I am not happy with the manner in which we have been treated in West Kingston in terms of their response."