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Sir Hilary suggests bipartisan solution to Mona Commons challenge

Published:Saturday | November 14, 2020 | 12:13 AM
Shops near the roadside in Mona Commons, St Andrew.
Shops near the roadside in Mona Commons, St Andrew.

Vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies (UWI), Sir Hilary Beckles, says the informal settlement of Mona Commons in St Andrew remains a challenge for the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) and its development.

For years, the teaching status of the UHWI was threatened owing to the establishment of the squatter settlement and the setting up of businesses close to the main road that resulted in traffic congestion and disorder.

Mona Commons is situated directly across from the UHWI.

Quizzed by journalists as to whether he had any proposals to remedy the long-standing problem, Sir Hilary said that two successive principals of the UWI, Mona campus and two administrations had tried to tackle the problem.

In a conversation with journalists from across the region on Thursday, Sir Hilary made it clear that this issue cannot be solved unilaterally but required a coherent strategy agreed on by both the Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party.

He said that the situation at Mona Commons requires an integrated national plan.

“I would love to see a holistic development for August Town, the Commons and Papine creating all of that into a university town,” he said.

Earlier this week, parliamentarians discussed the deleterious effects of informal settlements and the need to relocate residents living in areas prone to flooding.

During those discussions, Prime Minister Andrew Holness signalled that the Government would get tough on the development of informal and illegal settlements.

With Jamaica set to celebrate its 60th anniversary in 2022, Sir Hilary said that the country should have a conversation about what phase two of nation-building should look like.

As part of that dialogue, the vice-chancellor has questioned, “What’s the social contract to confront poverty and slum clearance and those things?” He called for a new vision and strategy.

Heartbreaking August Town

Turning to the troubled August Town, also in St Andrew, Sir Hilary said it was heartbreaking to see a community filled with some very decent people gripped with fear.

He reasoned that the legislation of Emancipation gave effect to Jamaica’s freedom on August 1. According to Sir Hilary, across the world villages were created carrying the name August Town by people who wanted a great vision of freedom.

The UWI vice-chancellor said it was unfortunate that a small minority was imposing an image upon a community that is still looking for emancipation day.

He said the UWI offered many scholarships and trained many young people in August Town in the areas of film and video production.