(Jamaica Observer) Kingston mayor, Senator Desmond McKenzie yesterday admitted that several communities were allowed to remain in flood-prone areas as pockets of votes by both major political parties.
According to McKenzie, who is also a deputy leader of the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), many of these communities had not only become pockets of votes but “pockets of disaster and destruction for the country”.MCKENZIE… “these communities are not only pockets of votes but pockets of disaster and destruction for the country” (Photos: Garfield Robinson)
Despite the devastation wreaked on these communities during natural disasters, McKenzie said, they were not relocated because of the need to preserve votes.
“I challenge Labourites today that we must move away from this kind of attitude,” McKenzie said in his address to the JLP Area Council One meeting held at the Holy Family Primary School in downtown, Kingston.
He said over the years, persons were taken to areas not suitable for dwelling as politicians sought supporters to vote for them during elections.
“If something wrong and I want to go to New Haven to move out some people because the area is threatened then you hear ‘is because a PNP (People’s National Party) live here, that is why you a come down here to do it; why you no go where the Labourites dem deh’. And vice versa when you go to areas where JLP live they say ‘is because a JLP why you want to come move we’,” McKenzie told the rapt audience.
The outspoken mayor noted that disaster knew no politics but was an added financial burden to the country.
Pointing to the tragedy in Sandy Park in St Andrew where a family of six was killed when a house washed off the gully’s edge during the passage of Tropical Storm Nicole last month, McKenzie said some of those persons were JLP supporters.
“We can no longer ignore the importance of saying to people that if you live in communities prone to flooding that it is in your best interest to find higher ground,” he said.
This, he maintained, was necessary as flood rain was no respecter of parties and would wash out both JLP and PNP, placing added financial burden on the country.
He also pointed to the informal settlement across from the University Hospital of the West Indies which flourished under the PNP administration.
” Look at what was allowed to be built in front of the largest teaching medical institution in this part of the world and when arrangement was made (to remove them) people ask if you know how much vote that,” McKenzie declared.
McKenzie then urged labourites to take back to their various communities, the message that building on banks of gullies and in river beds should be a ‘no no’.
Turning to the vending situation in downtown Kingston, the mayor warned the Opposition not to seek cheap political mileage from the removal of the vendors off the streets of the busy commercial district by the police.
He charged that the PNP did nothing to improve vending sites in the country, but the JLP was working to ensure that at least 75 per cent of improvements in the market district would be completed by the end of November.
He explained also that repairs were being done currently to at least four markets in the city.