Jamaica Gleaner / As an advocate for sustainable development, I believe that rather than politicising the expressed need for social services, let’s zoom in on the goals to improve the stake of humanity. Goal No. 11, in particular, addresses the issue of sustainable cities and communities.
I want to entertain the possibility of at least reaching these targets by 2030. Under this goal, a major area to explore is the basic physical systems of a nation – the upgrading of roads in this tepid context.
Here, my unit of analysis is parishes. Year after year, we have watched the rehabilitation and patching of urban, secondary and tertiary main roads in some localities islandwide and arguably even in those areas identified as ‘marginal constituencies’.
However, I’m still waiting on someone to remove the blindfold from my eyes to see what is happening for the roads in St Thomas, St James, Clarendon and Westmoreland. It is not a ‘jolly good’ ride when travelling in some of these areas. ‘Wul eep a jerk up’, especially when I’m riding a bicycle.
Recently, residents throughout these parishes have mounted protests and blocked roads, bringing public transportation to a halt and forcing the closure of several schools. The disruptions, citizens say, were intended to bring attention to the very poor and deteriorating road conditions and to demand urgent response. It is imperative to note that I support these activities, as motorists, schoolchildren, farmers, public workers, electors and taxpayers in these parishes need good roads to live a decent life.
It is perceived that during election fever, consecutive governments have dug deep into state or private funds to win elections in these same parishes. This is also immediately backed by a five- or 10-point plan developed overnight and released before day. So why the reluctance to develop these communities after the election fever is over and done?
The Government, which recently found millions of dollars to pump into an election in South East St Mary, and is now in the process of widening a relatively sound roadway to the prime minister’s house in Beverly Hills, engaged the long arm of the law to muzzle the protests.
Just this week, two young men, labelled St Thomas ringleaders, were rounded up and jailed unjustifiably.
This is not the first time in Jamaica’s history that young black men, standing up for the rights of the ordinary folk, have been arrested and silenced. Let’s not forget their blatant rejection of Sam Sharpe, Marcus Garvey, Alexander Bedward, Walter Rodney, and recently Andrew Turner and Omar Ryan.
I hope that Jamaica does not call out a militia, as existed in the days of Paul Bogle, who sought to bring his legitimate concern to the governor, in his march from Stony Gut to Spanish Town and who was subsequently arrested and hanged. All they wanted was immediate social change which was not in line with the priority agenda of the local bourgeoisie.
The basic social change some residents want is just the upgrading of bad roads. Fortunately, the two men, Omar Ryan and Andrew Turner, who were arrested, left the jail cells alive.
Jamaica has a constabulary that is mandated to serve and protect, not to stifle the legitimate protests of the people. The exercise of the right to protest is a sacred one protected by the Constitution of Jamaica. We hope for the sake of good governance that this is not the beginning of repressive action against the people for exercising their right to legitimate protest.
Maybe the new way to solve social issues in Jamdung is through politicising every act of public outcry, as it is still ideal for citizens to sit and wait on their lucky day. It is only hampering the true delivery of social services, leaving neglected and unreported communities in darkness forever.
The voices of Messrs Turner and Ryan should not be muted; they should serve as a vision of enlightenment to reduce spatial inequalities; to yield concrete, lasting change.
– Shari-Ann Henry holds a Master of Science in development statistics with specialisation in social and demographic statistics from the UWI, St Augustine, campus. For her thesis, she looked at spatial inequalities across Jamaica using indicators of sustainable housing. Email feedback to [email protected] and [email protected] .