Former MP for St Michael South East, Hamilton Lashley, is advocating the creation of tenants associations in public housing areas nationwide in a bid to prevent the neglect that he blames for the death of teen, Kyrique Boyce.
But while declaring that neglect of areas in The Pine led to Boyce’s death which he said was avoidable, Lashley has categorically rejected blame for maintenance neglect during his tenure as MP in the riding, which is made up mostly of public housing areas.
He insisted that during his stewardship of St Michael South East from 1994 until his retirement from active politics in 2012, he had a comprehensive plan in place to address concerns.
Lashley told Barbados TODAY: “When I was representative for St Michael South East I had a maintenance committee in place to deal with these issues as it relates to the houses, as it relates to the environs by itself, so as to make the community as safe, as aesthetically pleasing as possible to the eye and you don’t have to take my word; you can also ask the residents.
“We had also embarked on… a maintenance programme where the tenants and the Urban Development Commission had launched a painting programme that saw the majority of houses being painted.
“What they did was to naturally enhance the landscape of Pinelands, it also gave the residents a personal stake in housing development and in their own community.”
The nation’s first minister for social transformation has urged Minister of Housing George Payne to develop tenants’ associations in the housing areas to prevent any further tragic deaths owing to a lack of upkeep in the community.
“With the formation of the tenant’s association, you would create … a lasting relationship with the residents.
“So, when incidents like these occur you do not have the blame game being pushed and if you leave it to the politicians, they would only push it for political expediency.
“We have to make sure that something like what happened in The Pine never ever happens again in no part of Barbados. So, there needs to be a joint national effort in dealing with these issues.”
Lashley said: “Unfortunately, in Barbados, it always takes a tragedy or a death to spring various sectors of the society into action.
“What happened in The Pine, St Michael, is what I would consider a national tragedy from the perspective in my view that for too long the housing areas across Barbados have been virtually neglected as it relates to the maintenance of Government houses across the island by the National Housing Corporation (NHC).”
Boyce, 17, of Regent Hill, The Pine, died after he fell into a 100-foot well behind an NHC-built home at nearby Martin Road. A team of fire officers led by Acting Deputy Fire Officer Errol Gaskin pulled Boyce from the well and he was rushed to hospital by ambulance where he was pronounced dead.
Lashley told Barbados TODAY that Boyce’s was the first such death to occur in The Pine but he noted other members of the community had fallen into wells before, managing to escape with their lives.
“The issue of the wells in The Pine is one that needs to be seriously addressed.
“One recalls the lady, Miss Boyce, who fell into a well by Parkinson Community Centre and she is lucky to be alive.
“I am hoping that she is getting well [as] it is my understanding that she is still suffering from some of the injuries of that fall.
“Also, Stephen Ice Man Yearwood also fell into a well two years ago and had to seek medical attention.
“What happened in The Pine could happen in other housing areas and there must be urgent action.
“If you leave it to the Government alone it becomes political. There must be a synergized relationship between Government and the tenants in Government housing areas.”
The maintenance of wells in the housing area which dates back to 1947 has been an ongoing problem which needs to be urgently addressed, he said.
“There are many wells in the housing area that need urgent attention both by Government and private [interests] but at the same time one has to come to the realisation that if one is going to deal with some of these issues it has to be a shared responsibility between Government, the tenants, and Barbadians that are living in similar conditions,” he added.
Expressing his condolences to the Boyce family for the loss of their son, the former social transformation minister urged bereavement agencies in the area, including churches, to assist the family in their time of grief.
He said: “They would have experienced a number of challenges over the years and I want to convey to them my sympathies to them and wish them well.
“I really believe that the kind of anguish that they are currently experiencing all of the social systems must be brought to bear particularly that of the bereavement agency.
“That family needs a lot of intervention, social intervention and I believe churches in the community must also have a holistic social development programme for the community.”