KINGSTON –– Heavy-duty tractors moved yesterday to bulldoze the small, wooden two-room house situated on the parcel of land in Innswood, St Catherine, that 66-year-old Edgar Martin called home.
He sat looking on in shock as the equipment ripped through board and zinc. His house was to be the fourth, owned by former sugar workers to be destroyed for the day as government stepped up preparation for a major housing development.
“Please, mi a beg you, bossie. Give mi a little more time,” the senior citizen pleaded, beads of sweat on his forehead and tears trickling down his face.
Henry was among a group of more than 15 residents who watched in despair as the place many of them have called home for more than 30 years was reduced to rubble. Reports are that the move was part of an exercise to make way for a major housing development which will see the construction of some 2,000 houses in the area.
Distraught residents yesterday said that, while they were aware of the project, and that several meetings were held in which they were instructed to relocate, not all of them had found places to live. They also complained that the methods that were being used left them feeling abandoned.
“Dem can’t come and a deal wid wi like wi are puss and dog. We are citizens and should be dealt with respect. Dem can’t come and a throw us out of our houses like that,” said one resident.
Yesterday, Dr Andrew Wheatley, Member of Parliament for St Catherine South Central, the constituency in which the community sits, expressed shock at the development.
The MP said he would be seeking to meet with John Gayle, chief executive officer of the government-owned SCJ Holdings Limited, to see how best the affected residents could be accommodated.
“I was not aware of it, and if that is the case, then it is wrong,” said Wheatley yesterday. “We have to show some compassion.
“While the persons were told to remove themselves, and they were given time and even extensions, we have to be very compassionate and find ways and means to assist persons. This is one issue I will have to raise with Mr Gayle,” Wheatley continued.
The assurances were, however, not enough for people like 60-year-old Paula McDonald, whose house was destroyed a few days earlier, forcing her to sleep in a nearby canefield.
“Since dem destroy har house di woman don’t have anywhere to go, and every day she sit by the roadside, shocked and frustrated,” said one resident.
Other individuals, including Annie Armstrong, a 30-yearold resident, wore a worried look as the tractor edged closer to her house.
“Right now, I don’t have anywhere to go. All of my belongings are in the house, and if I can’t find any place right now I not going let them force me. What they are doing is illegal,” she argued.
A 54-year-old woman had similar thoughts as she stood at the spot where her fence once stood and watched as her neighbours sat on the ground wondering what was next.