KINGSTON –– The removal of a water tank from the community of Hampshire, in rural St Catherine, by parish council representatives on Monday, has left mystified residents with fading hopes that piped water to their homes — a “luxury” they have not experienced in nearly 20 years — will ever be restored.
Residents told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that no reason was given for the removal of the massive metal storage tank — the larger of two that have been fixtures in the community since the late 1960s — when the parish council team rolled into the area with heavy-duty equipment to lift the tank from the concrete columns on which it had been resting.
The residents were equally puzzled as to where the tank, which has the capacity for several thousand gallons of water, has been taken.
“I was shock when mi hear say di councillor remove the tank. Mi nuh know who authorise him to do this, but mi know the MP [Member of Parliament] has a development programme for this community,” Elvis Edwards said when the Observer visited the area yesterday.
For years the two tanks served the farming community of approximately 3,000 with water pumped from a well just over a mile away. But just over a decade ago, the pump was mysteriously removed by the parish council and the community was subjected to a sporadic supply of trucked water, which lately had been stored in the tank as a central point from which residents may fill their buckets and plastic bottles.
“Wi only a wait pon the budget fi read, fi know wat a gwaan inna di ministry. The tank should a never move until after the budget read fi know wah the MP a deal wid. No one at all know that the tank did a move. A when mi deh a Riversdale [an adjoining community] yesterday [Monday] mi hear di argument. Last night mi down the road and mi si di big tank a go through. I was so surprised. Dem shoulda never remove di tank; it is for the community,” Edwards added.
Maureen Francis concurred.
“For so many years we had it. Mi born come see the tank right here so . . . . For no reason the councillor remove the tank. Him nuh do nothing here and him nuh have no reason to come and remove the tank,” she said as she claimed political victimization.
She, too, said the residents were not informed of the pending removal and described the action of the parish council as a “big disrespect”.
Edith Patterson, a senior citizen who has called the community home for over 70 years, shared similar views.
“Nobody nuh suppose to trouble this tank. It is hard for us to get water. Mi old now, mi cyaan carry water,” she said.
“. . . They truck the water and put it here, so you have to come here and get it. They don’t have a right to come and get it and take the bigger one,” Patterson explained while seeking answers.
“We need it, and we have to hear who sent him to come and take away the tank and why? What they are going to do?” Patterson asked.
Yesterday, Member of Parliament for St Catherine North Eastern, Leslie Campbell, said that he was not certain as to who ordered the removal of the tank.
“. . . We understand that this tank in the Hampshire section of the constituency has now been moved, and I can’t say by whose authority,” said Campbell, a first-time MP, who who won the seat for the ruling Jamaica Labour Party by a mere 122 votes in the February 25 general election.
Yesterday, Campbell claimed that the removal of the tank was part of “an ongoing line of activity on the part of those who seek to disrupt the normal activity of the people in the constituency”.
“And I certainly won’t have it,” he assured.
Efforts to contact councillor for the Troja Division, Hoftate Pantry, of the People’s National Party, proved futile. Meanwhile, repeated calls to the St Catherine Parish Council to get clarification on the matter were also without success. A male representative, to whom the Observer was transferred, made it clear in a very rude tone that he was not obligated to furnish the newspaper with any information.
This latest mystery comes just shy of a year when former MP Gregory Mair (JLP) called on the contractor general to probe a matter involving the disappearance of a storage tank, which he said he had paid JA$4 million from his Constituency Development Fund allocation to the National Water Commission (NWC) to repair.
The 8,000-gallon aluminium tank, property of the NWC, was allegedly removed by “politically connected” individuals in March 2015 — a month after the final payment was made.
The tank had for many years served residents of Top Crawle, Riversdale and surrounding areas.