SINK OR SWIM - MP DALEY MAKING STRIDES IN EAST ST CATHERINE DESPITE BUMPY START
Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
Difficult assignments don't usually scare Denise Daley, the People's National Party member of parliament (MP) for East St Catherine.
But Daley admits that her early parliamentary encounter had left her stupefied at the time, as there were no clear guidelines or formal instructions on how she should carry out her legislative duties.
"There is no apprenticeship system in Parliament," Daley notes. "You are thrown in at the deep end, and you either swim or sink."
Daley argues that with no training or significant preparation for the arduous task as lawmaker, she had to "walk through the raindrops to find her way" after entering Gordon House - the seat of the nation's Parliament.
On the other hand, with years of experience as deputy mayor and councillor, the first-time MP said she was able to hit the ground running in her constituency after brushing aside her challenger, the Jamaica Labour Party's Sharon Hay-Webster, in the 2011 general election.
The affable MP was eager to trumpet her achievements in the East St Catherine constituency recently as The Gleaner quizzed her about her work, little more than three years into the five-year political cycle.
She argues that the perception that backbenchers have little or nothing to do in Parliament is not true for those representatives of the people who are serious about their job as legislators.
Daley says a meticulous MP who is a member of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament, for example, has to carry out extensive preparations for committee meetings, to interface with public servants from ministries, government depart-ments and agencies.
"You don't just go and sit before them (public servants). You have to study what they are doing and you have to carry out extensive reading and research into the operations of these departments. So, while a minister may have several assistants, a member of a committee - such as the PAAC - has to do her homework, and that is why I was so concerned about getting some assistance with the briefing so that we don't have any misinterpretations in the subject areas that we need to speak on," said Daley, who is a member of nine parliamentary committees.
Daley's legislative tasks are just one side of the coin, but flip it over and she is comfortable with her daily tasks on the ground, as she works to fulfil commitments made to her constituents.
For Daley, partnerships are essential to achieving the targeted objectives of the constituency, and this is why she has forged close links with the citizens' associations within various communities.
The MP says one of her foremost political visions for the first five years is to give as many persons as possible, who live on lands for up to 40 years but do not have security of tenure, titles to prove ownership.
Her relentless lobbying has finally paid off, with residents from a number of informal settlements in the constituency now receiving titles.
Windsor Heights, formerly called Sufferers' Heights, and the once-troubled Gravel Heights were selected for priority treatment in terms of delivering titles.
Daley said more than 800 titles were handed out in Windsor Heights, while 79 titles were delivered in Gravel Heights during the first year of her stewardship. In year two, more than 1,000 titles were ready for Windsor Heights and more than 600 are now ready for Gravel Heights.
Gravel Heights was under siege in 2008 by gunmen, forcing many residents to flee their homes as the police provided protection for the exodus. In 2010, the community was devastated by the loss of eight people, in one night, after gunmen sprayed the residents with bullets.
Today, Daley says the community stands as a beacon on a hill. She says it has been transformed, with residents who had left during that turbulent period about seven years ago returning to now settle in a peaceful environment.
In fact, there is now a demand for land in the area.
"It [has] reached a stage now where people are asking me if there are any lots in Gravel Heights that they can get to purchase," Daley said.
She added that many homeowners who previously wanted to sell their houses in Gravel Heights for prices significantly below market rates were now carrying out expansion work on their homes.
"In the community, there is a level of unity, and people feel more comfortable and safe."
The MP indicates that she has been allocating funds from her Constituency Development Fund in support of an initiative spearheaded by former United States Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater at the Tredegar Park Primary School. The project involved the rearing of chickens and the setting up of a vegetable farm to supply both the school and residents with chicken and eggs at reduced costs.
Daley said she has also worked with members of the Greendale Citizens' Association to expand the community centre to accommodate a homework centre for residents.
Since she became MP, Daley said she has established a total of 11 homework centres in her constituency and distributed 35 computers.
The MP said shut-ins in Lauriston receive food packages on a monthly basis from her constituency office. Another 15 packages of food are provided to other community-based groups which assist a number of persons who are dispossessed in other areas.
"If you come in here and you do not have anything to cook, we have food stuff that we can package something and give you that you can carry home," she said.
Daley has teamed up with Spanish Town Mayor Norman Scott to provide a solar-energy water-pumping facility that is gravity-fed in Windsor Heights, which now supplies water to a large section of the community.
The MP has also been instrumental in organising HEART Trust/NTA training in masonry for young men in Windsor Heights at a community centre in the area.