Jamaica is a Coastal Country – Minister Desmond McKenzie

Building Resilient Communities through local Governance

The theme of the local Government and Community Youth Mayor’s forum 2019. Hosted by the St James Municipal Corporation on Wednesday November 20, 2019.

The program opened by youth mayor of Montego Bay, Mr. Tejano Taylor under the leadership of his worship Mayor of Montego Bay Councilor Homer Davis, CD, JP and Chairman of the Parish’s Municipal Corporation. Undividedly they gave their attention to the Minister of Local Government and Community Development Honourable Desmond McKenzie, CD, MP,JP., as he delivered his address.

Minister McKenzie kicked off his address by informing the current Junior Mayor Cohort Representing each Parish, that his expectations of them are very high as at the launch of the youth forum in 2018, he rated the presentations made by the Junior mayors a full ten out of ten. His rating and respect for their research and ideas was not just a mere commendation as at least three of the suggestions made by the junior mayors  last year were implemented. One tangible evidence could be seen in Santa Cruz, in the parish of St Elizabeth.

The suggestion was made by a Junior Mayor to improve the aesthetic of the infirmary as the colour choice represented doom and gloom. This has now been changed to a more uplifting, positively spirit enhancing ambiance. As one visitor commented “it now looks like a four star hotel”.

. Mr. McKenzie was so moved by other suggestions of the Junior Mayors to increase the allocations given so the projects undertaken could be more far reaching and impactful as “… di likkle money that is offered for the Youth Mayor Project is not enough…” hence the allocations to each junior mayor has now been increased from Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000.00) to Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dollars ($750,000.00). The minister impressed upon the audience that he has found  much favour in the role of junior mayor and emphasized “… the legacy of the projects will speak for itself…” Disaster Preparedness assumes an integral function in the local government ministry and the weighted nature was not lost in the minister’s address as he compared the attitude of the citizens of Japan and America to that of Jamaicans. He stated that the main difference was the discipline of the people.

In terms of informing and warning the public of possible disasters the two aforementioned countries respond positively to the warnings of the government through the relevant agencies. This was evident in two (2) of the many stories told throughout the minister’s speech.

In one incident he spoke of  hurricane Matthew that speared Jamaica, However in preparing for the possible disaster. He received a call from Phillip Paulwell of the Peoples National Party, as MP for the east Kingston Port Royal Division, he was concerned about the people at Port Royal. Minister McKenzie then realized it was best as the JLP Minister to approach the situation in a Bipartisan manner. Two (2) buses were sent to evacuate the citizens of Port Royal to Kingston for safety reasons. Both buses returned with only one (1) individual on board one of the buses.

In another incident the mayor spoke of pleading with a gentleman living in a large house in a flood prone area to evacuate. The minister said though he was bashed by the gentleman, he implored him to move, especially since he had to hold on to a rope to walk across a bridge to get to the house owner. The house owner did not yield. The house, the house owner and his wife were washed away as the minister and others painfully watched from the other side.

“Jamaica is a coastal Country”. McKenzie highlighted. “when we speak of discipline we must appreciate the disaster risks…”

“85% of the Country’s Resources and power is vested in coastal areas.”

Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) sits on the edge of Kingston Waterfront. The prison, House of Parliament, Supreme Court, the Oil Refinery, Two Major Hospitals, our Air ports, all on the coast. Every major institution of Power except maybe for Jamaica House and King’s House is a short distance from the ocean. If Jamaica was hit with a major disaster such as the recent occurrence in the Bahamas, the effect would have been devastating, lamented Mr. Mckenzie.

By Karleyer Edwards

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