Opposition MP George Payne today complained that while the Freundel Stuart administration had rushed to the rescue of the people of Dominica following hurricane devastation last year, it has abandoned its own people in White Hill, St Andrew.
Payne levelled the charge as he joined with residents in reiterating their strong appeal to Government for urgent help after another section of the road leading into the ill-fated rural district collapsed.
The Barbados Labour Party representative said it was clear to him that the people of St Andrew have been “abandoned” by the ruling Democratic Labour Party, following heavy rains in November 2014 that caused extensive land slippage and rendered the White Hill main road impassable before it was officially condemned a month later.
“It took them over a year before they could even think about a temporary road. They came and they put the marl on mud, I mean close to the edge of the road and . . . now the road has totally collapsed, and despite the calls to the Ministry of Transport and Works, they have done nothing.
“They have refused to involve officials from Soil Conservation in this exercise . . . and I believe these are the head people that should have been involved,” he complained to Barbados TODAY.
Comparing Government’s response to the 2015 Dominica hurricane tragedy, which he acknowledged was worse than what obtains in White Hill, Payne said: “We sent down members of the [Barbados] Defence Force. . . and Dominica has, if you are looking at it in terms of a temporary fix, they have actually benefited from the attention of the various authorities in at least getting a road that is passible.
“Now when you look here, you can’t believe people are living in these conditions,” he said, adding that the situation had now reached the point of “unbearable”.
As an Opposition MP, Payne said all he could do at this stage for his constituents was to continually highlight the situation in the hope that the relevant authorities, including the Barbados Water Authority, come to their rescue.
“We are more or less at the mercy of the Government,” Payne said while throwing his hands in the air.
In addition to maintenance of the unaffected areas of White Hill , he suggested Government needs to urgently get to work on a promised temporary road while it carries out a feasibility study “to determine where the permanent road would be placed.
“More importantly, those people who have been dislocated, those people should be relocated, especially seeing that lands have been acquired at Farmers [St Thomas] for people who must be relocated,” he said, adding that one of the failings of Government to date has been not issuing conveyances to residents who are entitled to land transfers.
Today, he was strongly backed up by the outspoken Carlitha Andrews, a resident of the area for almost 30 years, who pointed out that Ministry of Transport and Works had not honoured its assurance that work on a temporary road would have restarted last Tuesday.
“Everything seems to be about politics and it is not fair.”
She said in addition to road issues they were suffering from severe water woes.
However, “it is like if we are not living on this island, we living elsewhere,” Andrews told Barbados TODAY, while accusing the authorities of totally ignoring their plight.
“It negligence to the highest degree,” she insisted, while also charging that residents were being victimized for calling in the media.
Just last week, the Ministry of Transport and Works had given an assurance that it had not abandoned embattled White Hill.
However, it in a statement, it maintained that a geotechnical study was urgently needed in order to ascertain the underlying causes, as well as to find the best solution to road problems plaguing the rural community.
“The purpose of the study will be to carry out geophysical, geotechnical, hydrogeological and engineering investigations, and to have the relevant reports prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Transport and Works as a basis for the determination of the optimum, sustainable solution to the road failures in the White Hill area,” the Ministry had said.
It had also promised that in the interim, work on a temporary road would resume on Tuesday, May 17th 2016 but according to residents no such thing has been done.