Vaz calls Portland protests ‘orchestrated demonstrations’
Government Minister and Member of Parliament for West Portland Daryl Vaz has labelled recent protests in communities in the Fairy Hill division in East Portland over the lack of water and the dust nuisance from road works as “orchestrated demonstrations”.
Three protests have taken place in the division since March, with the latest in Drapers on Monday.
Speaking at a post-Cabinet press briefing on Wednesday Vaz contends that the protests are coming out of a particular constituency in the parish where “a political aspirant is trying to make his name”.
“We have nine divisions in Portland municipal council. All nine of them are suffering some more than some because of road works, but in terms of drought all are suffering. Yet still we are seeing demonstrations almost on a weekly basis coming out of one division,” he said.
These communities are located in his wife’s Ann Marie Vaz’s constituency, and according to the MP, the protests are not beneficial to anyone.
“It is not going to help how much quicker we get water because this is not man made, man cya fix this, neither can a woman fix it, ” he said.
However, in a Gleaner interview, Colin Bell, the People’s National Party applicant for the East Portland constituency denied the allegations.
According to Bell the residents are voicing their discontent over the level of representation they have been receiving, and he had no part in spurring them on. In fact, he contends that the protests are happening in a Jamaica Labour Party stronghold division.
“The people are up in arms with the leadership of the constituency. The constituency is under no management and the people are suffering,” he declared, “It is the political pressure that they are feeling. The people in Portland are tired of them.”
He said he has only actively participated in one protest that happened in March in Fairy Hill, and that he does not support roadblocks as a means of demonstrations.
“When you are protesting I don’t support blocking the roads because it is something that can affect a lot of people in different ways … I believe in marching,” he said.
But in explaining that his role as MP is to lobby for better infrastructure, Vaz apologised to residents for the inconvenience suffered.
He stated that Portland is feeling the effects of climate change which has significantly affected its rainfall levels. Currently, he said 12 of the 17 minor water supplies in the parish that are operated by the local municipal council are not producing water. And nine of the 13 major water supplies, operated by the National Water Commission (NWC), are not producing.
As a result, water supply has had to be regulated, alternating which days they serve the various communities.
“This is totally unacceptable”, Vaz argued, adding that water trucking has been used as the means to address this.
He stated that $10 million dollars have been spent to truck water throughout the parish from January to April, and another $10 million is projected to be spent from May to June. But he stated this is neither cost effective nor impactful.
And while acknowledging that the road works taking place has been a source of frustration for residents, Vaz criticised the contractor China Harbour Engineering Company, and the National Works Agency (NWA) for what he describes as inadequate supervision.
“For the level of money that is being spent, I openly say that the supervision of these road works are unacceptable not because of the quality of work, but unacceptable because of the maintenance of the temporary roads and the dust nuisance,” he said.
According to Vaz, he has made representation to the NWA who he said has agreed to oil the roads that are currently being worked on immediately. This, he asserts, will lessen the dust nuisance.