When MP means miss­ing per­son

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & .COMMENTARY - Pa­tri­aKaye Aarons Pa­tria-Kaye Aarons is a tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter and con­fec­tioner. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com and find­pa­tria@ya­hoo.com, or tweet @find­pa­tria.

ON SUN­DAY, An­dré Wright of the Gleaner wrote an ar­ti­cle ti­tled ‘Sa­muda’s land grab­bers’. It was filled with so many painful truths that needed to be said. Truths about politi­cians, the gar­ri­son com­mu­ni­ties they are in charge of, and how they have no drive to bet­ter the lives of the peo­ple that re­side there.

Truths about why men and women rep­re­sent the same com­mu­ni­ties for decades as MP and can’t show ev­i­dence of how they have im­proved the area be­yond the way they in­her­ited it. And truths about how none can pro­duce the plan they have de­vel­oped for trans­for­ma­tion of these com­mu­ni­ties. No plan. Lit­tle ac­tion.

Bot­tom line, those politi­cians don’t serve the peo­ple. The peo­ple serve them. The tightly packed gar­ri­son com­mu­ni­ties and po­lit­i­cal strongholds only serve to make up num­bers when elec­tion time comes. The peo­ple stay un­em­ployed (and avail­able to cam­paign at mid­day); they stay poor (and eter­nally grate­ful for spo­radic hand­outs); they stay un­der­e­d­u­cated (and will­ing to vote for a politi­cian who over and over does noth­ing to im­prove their con­di­tion); and they stay des­per­ate (and sus­cep­ti­ble to the lure of drugs, guns, and crime).

The fight at 85 Red Hills Road should never have been “we want to stay on squat­ter lands”. It should be “We want to be le­git­imised and own our own land. And we want our politi­cians to fa­cil­i­tate the en­vi­ron­ment to stim­u­late jobs and the means for us to ac­quire them”.

In­for­mal set­tle­ments are a real and ig­nored prob­lem. Gar­ri­son com­mu­ni­ties and the peo­ple who live there shoul­der much of the blame for Ja­maica’s crime. True, not every­one liv­ing in them is a crim­i­nal. In fact, the vast ma­jor­ity are not. But the very struc­ture of a com­mu­nity that the po­lice can­not en­ter spells trou­ble. The labyrinth of hap­haz­ard cor­ri­dors and im­pen­e­tra­ble forts is a recipe for il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity to brew in the shroud of se­crecy. And safe be­hind the fridge-blocked en­trances, there are crim­i­nals who plot. Crim­i­nals who plot and then ex­e­cute with the ex­pe­di­ency we wish our politi­cians did.


A dusty 2008 gov­ern­ment­com­mis­sioned re­port is sit­ting on a shelf some­where at the Min­istry of Hous­ing. It iden­ti­fied 754 set­tle­ments across the is­land. Seven hun­dred and fifty-four – hous­ing an es­ti­mated one­fifth of Ja­maica’s pop­u­la­tion. In 2007, 66 per cent of those set­tle­ments had ex­isted for more than 20 years. How has solv­ing this been no­body’s pri­or­ity? How can we have 754 zinc com­mu­ni­ties in a coun­try and feel as if there’s no prob­lem, mon? How can one-fifth of the coun­try be kotch­ing some­where, with no plumb­ing, un­san­i­tary garbage dis­posal and un­sta­ble houses and you feel, as MP, that you have done your job?

If at all we are se­ri­ous about tack­ling Ja­maica’s big­gest mon­ster, the po­lit­i­cal as­pi­ra­tions of those who lead have to take a ma­jor turn. It can’t just be about win­ning the seat. There is work to be done. Their re­turn to power must be based not on mind­less num­bers, but on per­for­mance.

The prime minister made a prom­ise of job de­scrip­tions and tar­gets for his mem­bers. Ac­tions they were to be as­sessed on by him and the public. I have yet to see them. How are the mem­bers of Gov­ern­ment be­ing as­sessed? No longer is it OK to say this is a prob­lem I in­her­ited. The mea­sure of your suc­cess will be how many of those in­her­ited prob­lems you have fixed.

Any politi­cian who read Mr Wright’s ar­ti­cle on Sun­day should take a long hard look at him­self. You col­lect a salary from this coun­try every month to do a job. Are you do­ing that job? And the peo­ple who voted you in must take a long hard look at you and ask, “Am I be­ing served?” If the an­swer to ei­ther is no, ac­tion must be taken.

I’ve said it be­fore and it will for­ever be my be­lief: If only MPs were made to live in the mess of a con­stituency they over­saw, oh, how dif­fer­ent things would be.

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