The community of White Hill, St Andrew, appears to be on the road back to having some form of regular access. That it has taken a year for the Freundel Stuart administration to finally come up with a temporary solution is in itself rather telling.
In the period that followed the heavy rains of November, 2014, which compounded a land slippage problem and forced Government to deem the road impassable, promises were made and promises were broken –– you might recall Minister of Housing Denis Kellman’s promise of $25,000 grants to help residents relocate.
Having been forced to suffer through the inaccessible road, the people of this small village, like many other communities in the northern parish, as well as areas such as Boscobel in St Peter, have had to endure the inconvenience of dry taps. No doubt, life has been uncomfortable for them.
Therefore, when on Friday, Minister of Transport and Works Michael Lashley proudly pointed to work being done on a temporary access road, it must have felt like an early Christmas present. The reaction of resident Carlita Andrew, who had been agitating for the plight of residents to be addressed, said it all.
“We are satisfied because we have been suffering for too long. People got injured, nobody responded to us before; but it is about time. We are happy to at least see something is being done,” she said.
However, this moment of pleasure for the people of White Hill became a masquerade –– or more appropriately, a charade –– as Mr Lashley and Opposition Member of Parliament for St Andrew George Payne engaged in a rather childish exchange over who is responsible for the current state of affairs.
Mr Payne complained that a year was much too long, and charged that it took the collapse of a tree in the area to “wake up Government” to do something about the situation. He contended that the exercise was not properly thought out because some of the houses ought to have been relocated, and because the Minister of Housing was absent.
“I can take you to places where people are actually living under the earth in this particular area and nothing has been done by the ministry; absolutely nothing for over a year. So this can be an exercise in futility unless they bring the other areas of Government to facilitate a sort of speedy resolution
to this matter,” Mr Payne argued.
Of course, Mr Lashley rejected the claim, and threw the blame squarely at the MP’s feet, reminding Mr Payne that he once was Minister of Housing and Transport.
“I think it is nonsensical and it is foolishness for a former Minister of Housing and Transport, who had responsibility at the time and was in a better position to do better for his constituency, to now come and blame it at the feet of the Government. He is the one that should be blamed.”
The finger-pointing –– literally and otherwise –– took place in full view of media and residents.
It was an ugly display unbecoming of men charged with the responsibility of running the affairs of our country; men who regrettably are role models, or ought to be.
A state of denial is a horribly infectious disease afflicting the political leadership in this case, and the sickeningly puerile display by Messers Lashley and Payne suggests they both should report urgently to the Emergency Department because clearly they both have a severe case of it.
There’s a certain pathos in the situation in St Andrew. The issues with land slippage, the condemned road, the long-running water problems –– we won’t use the term water woes because the problem has been ongoing for such a long time, the term has become cliché –– suggest our concerns and sympathy must lie with the suffering villagers.
Instead, the great panjandrums bicker in public in an attempt to score political points, while the suffering persists.
So here’s our Christmas wish for the people of White Hill, St Andrew, as well as the others in the many areas that have long had to endure the many water outages: that the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future will pay our political leaders a visit and have them repent from their ways, and will somehow get White Hill water and a proper road.