Parish status would change nothing for Portmore – Jackson
Representatives of the opposition People’s National Party on Wednesday questioned what benefits Portmore would receive as a parish that it is not getting currently as a joint select committee held its first sitting to review the proposal for the municipality to become the country’s 15th parish.
St Catherine South Member of Parliament (MP) Fitz Jackson was the first to show his hand and was later supported by Senator Damion Crawford, pitting themselves against others on the government-controlled committee chaired by St Catherine South Central MP Dr Andrew Wheatley.
Jackson, whose constituency covers a section of Portmore, contended that political expediency was at play and questioned the “material” difference that a parish designation would bring to the people.
He argued that when the Portmore municipality was created, the residents felt it important to protect it from the political directorate. They insisted that in the act that established it that the boundaries of Portmore should not be changed without consultation with the people.
“Before we consider any changes, we must show respect to the people. ... It is the views of the people of Portmore that must be central to the decisions made that will affect them,” said Jackson.
Talks of Portmore becoming a parish were resurrected this year by the Jamaica Labour Party in its campaign for the September election.
The Andrew Holness-led party is looking to follow through with the plans, which include investment through infrastructure development, such as a ‘Tech City’ in the heart of Portmore, which is home to more than 200,000 residents and has had an annual growth rate of four per cent since 1991.
However, Jackson, the longest-serving MP in the community, is not sold on the value a parish designation would bring to the overall development goals for Portmore as the planned projects can be executed with or without such a tag.
He suggested that if Portmore were to be declared a parish, residents would see no change when they woke up the following day.
Committee member Natalie Campbell-Rodriques, a government senator, recalled sentiments of gloom by many disappointed residents who had preferred a parish designation instead when the new municipality was created nearly two decades ago.
“As someone who served in the Portmore municipality and was one of the first councillors when that municipality was formed in 2003, my memory may not be great, but it’s good enough to remember that one of the things that the people of Portmore were proud of at the time was that they felt as though they were moving forward,” she said. “But one of the drawbacks in the minds of many of the people was why couldn’t they be a parish [and] feel like they are a big boy?”
For his part, Crawford wanted to know which benefits would not accrue to the people of Portmore should it not become a parish, stating that the issues were being conflated.
“The development plans for Portmore, in and of itself, should not be – and I hope [they are] not – dependent on its parish designation, and so I would want us to focus mainly on what are the benefits of the parish designation more so than the general plans for development of Portmore,” he said.