The senior minister for housing, George Payne, has told fellow MPs to “stop with the blame game” in the wake of the death of a teenager in a defective well in the nation’s largest public housing estate.
Payne’s declaration today in the House of Assembly came during the debate on the Crown Lands (Vesting and Disposal) Act where fellow minister Santia Bradshaw blasted the state housing agency over the incident which claimed the life of 17-year-old Kyrique Boyce.
The teenager fell in a 100ft well at Martin Road, The Pine, St Michael last week and was pronounced dead at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Bradshaw, the area’s MP, accused the National Housing Corporation (NHC) of neglecting The Pine.
But directly responding to Bradshaw’s impassioned plea for answers so that she could tell the teen’s family what went wrong, Payne said he would not condone attacks on the NHC by any minister or Member of Parliament.
Payne said: “I know members can be somewhat passionate about their constituency. Some of us in this chamber seem to have forgotten that we have only been here for a few months.
“I stop short of actually, directly blaming any particular Government agency and I think it is wrong when officers who work tirelessly are being requested to make certain decisions against their own professional competence and professional reputation when they could hear people actually being critical of them and their institution.
“As Minister, however animated we might be as it relates to our own constituency, I certainly will not condone any attacks on the institution.”
The Housing Minister said the NHC is facing serious challenges and enough resources to fix all the problems were just not at their disposal.
He declared: “There are serious problems in the housing estates and particularly in The Pine but you can’t just come and blame the National Housing Corporation that has done its best under trying circumstances.
“The maintenance of the wells is a problem. The maintenance of the estates is a problem. The thing about it is there is no money coming in. People are not paying rent. Government has left National Housing Corporation in a state where it has to try to manage its resources.
“There is no resource to fix any single emergency. You can’t just come and blame NHC. I mean the NHC as of today. Blame the NHC but blame the last Government for their failure to fix the problems.
“We haven’t finished the inspections yet the reports are still coming in. We are hopeful that we will be able to arrest the situation with respect to the problems that have surfaced in The Pine.
Payne cautioned that it would take time for Government to fix the myriad problems that NHC tenants face.
The Housing Minister said: “Rest assured that we as a Government will do all that is required . . . I can’t say that it not something that cannot happen again but we have to try to make sure that it does not happen again. I ask the members of the chamber to stop the blame game.
“The National Housing Corporation has been dealt a hard hand but we will do our best to ensure that the incidences that took place in The Pine will not be replicated. But it is not something that will happen overnight. It is going to take us time.”